Friday, April 28, 2006

Additional thoughts......

There is actually an award winning documentary about the life and death of Kevin Carter that was nominated for a 2006 Academy Award. Though I have not yet seen it, I found the website helpful in terms of outlining the bigger picture of Kevin Carter's life and work. It seems like his life was the ultimate expression of the paradox that faces many journalists; do you focus upon getting the story out to the world or take direct personal action? Isn't getting the story out to the world a very significant form of action? Well, I believe that it certainly is, but does it really have to be this kind of an either/or dichotomy?

Also, has an ongoing campaign to help raise consciousness and facilitate action around the situation in Darfur.
(sorry, I still haven't figured out the web-link stuff)

Lastly, thanks to Kevin Carter....your wound has helped to heal me....

A painful reminder


I received the following picture in an e-mail this morning from a friend (many of you have likely seen it). Though it is now quite old, I had never seen it before and was extremely distressed by the amazingly horrific and powerful scene that it captured. It seemed extraordinarily relevant given the current situation in Darfur and the ongoing struggle to see some kind of resolute action happen there. What kind of action would that be? I don't have any answers, but I'm trying to honestly face the questions along with the rest of you. I've included (after a copy of Kevin Carter's journal entry, written not too long before he committed suicide) a copy of my response to this incredibly jolting e-mail (perhaps sanctimonious, definitely angry, and hopelessly conflicted as I watch my little daughter on the floor, also struggling to to try crawl, albeit for infinitely different reasons).

Kevin Carter's journal entry:

This was found in his diary ,

Dear God, I promise I will never waste my food no matter how bad it can taste and how full I may be. I pray that He will protect this little boy, guide and deliver him away from his misery. I pray that we will be more sensitive towards the world around us and not be blinded by our own selfish nature and interests.

I hope this picture will always serve as a reminder to us that how fortunate we are and that we must never ever take things for granted.

Please don't break.. keep on forwarding to our friends On this good day. Let's make a prayer for the suffering in anywhere any place around the globe and send this friendly reminder to others Think & look at this...when you complain about your food and the food we wasted daily........


Let me ask the most obvious and perhaps most controversial question. Why didn't the journalist carry the child to the U.N. food camp? Why do we act so powerless when the power to make a difference so often lies right in our very hands (in this case, quite literally)? Are we afraid of the fact that we can do the right thing, that we do have the choice? Are we frightened by the fact that there really is good in the world, that it is ultimately stronger than evil, and that it might lead us to places where we do not want to go if we acknowledge it? Was Kevin worried about breaking the rules or doing something that would have seemed (or actually have been) out of bounds? Wanting to share the story with the rest of the world is certainly a very noble aim, but how can you in that same moment vacate your moral responsibility to a fellow human being? It is sad to note that we more often act like voyeuristic vultures than we do as human beings. My heart is broken for both the photographer and the young boy. They had the power to bring life to one another, to heal one another's brokenness, but were not able to make that connection. I wouldn't ask these questions if I hadn't faced similar (though far less severe) decisions in my own life, and learned through the overall process that we do have the power to make a difference. And one of the main things I have learned is that we cannot expect to be faithful in the big things of life if we have not been faithful in the little things on a daily basis (inviting our neighbors to dinner, practicing hospitality, spending quality time with our families and friends, regularly associating with people of "low" station, being kind to folks who are struggling, looking for opportunities to do good, mounting frequent offensives against cynicism, etc.). We are accountable for what we know to be true. Therefore, let judgement begin with me and my house............choose this day whom you will serve...............come Lord Jesus, come....................people ask "where is God?" and God asks "where are we?" Thanks for sharing this picture with me. I'm sorry if I've said too much.......I just can't remain silent in the face of such things.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

if you like books

we are going out of town this weekend so we will miss the Bluegrass Festival of Books. looks like a great event if you like books. i'm especially sorry we won't be able to make it to the following discussion...go if you can.

4/29: KY Authors Mountaintop Removal Panel
WHAT: Lost Mountains: Kentucky Authors Mountaintop Removal Panel
READINGS BY: Bobbie Ann Mason, Mary Ann Taylor Hall, Erik Reece
WHEN: 9:00 a.m. Saturday, April 29
WHERE: Lexington Convention Center Room: Thoroughbred 7, Lexington KY
DETAILS: The mountains of Appalachia are home to one of the great forests of the world - and also the mother lode of American coal. The coal mining industry has long mined the Appalachian mountains for coal, but now, with the advent of radical strip mining, just 10 men and some heavy machinery can literally blast the top off of a mountain - and mete out economic and environmental devastation on an unprecedented scale.
Erik Reece, writing teacher at the University of Kentucky, spent a year chronicling the decimation of Lost Mountain in Eastern Kentucky - and eloquently paints a picture of a crisis that extends far beyond the local political and economic climate. Joining Erik Reece will be Anne Shelby and Bobbie Ann Mason, participants in the April 2005 "Mountaintop Removal Tour."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

thomas merton quote of the week

convicting for those of us who are often at unrest within our selves...

“All men seek peace first of all with themselves. That is necessary, because we do not naturally find rest even in our own being. We have to learn to commune with ourselves before we can communicate with other men and with God. A man who is not at peace with himself necessarily projects his interior fighting into the society of those he lives with, and spreads a contagion of conflict all around him. Even when he tries to do good to others his efforts are hopeless, since he does not know how to do good to himself. In moments of wildest idealism he may take it into his head to make other people happy: and in doing so he will overwhelm them with his own unhappiness. He seeks to find himself somehow in the work of making others happy. Therefore he throws himself into the work. As a result he gets out of the work all that he put into it: his own confusion, his own disintegration, his own unhappiness. “

From No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lexington Health Care Community Meeting

The Citizen's Health Care initiative, which is a government funded organization, are holding public meetings about insurance in America. The meeting for this area is April 25th.

I don't know if this is worth attending or not, but I received the information and thought I would pass it on to everyone.

Here is the link to register. Once you click on the link you have to scroll down to April 25th to see the Lexington meeting.

eyes to see

last night sherry, isaac and i went to the apartment of some recently arrived refugees from north africa (ethiopia via egypt). they fed us a beautiful meal and we heard some of their stories. it is always an immensely humbling experience to be so generously hosted by people who have lost everything (most times this includes family and friends). we sat on the floor and drank some of the best coffee i have tasted (from ethiopia). incense gently wafted over us while we talked about their orthodox easter celebrations coming up. as a student of missiology i found it fascinating to sit and listen to christians who practice a branch of our faith that has its roots go all the way back to first century africa. so many of our refugee friends from africa practice an incarnation of the faith that came to them via colonization much later. it gave me another occasion to reflect on the fact that sherry's day-to-day work with refugees and my occasional involvement has been the most remarkable source of nourishment for our lives - it has given us eyes to see our own faithfulness and suffering (or lack thereof) in a broader context.

see this link for a report on the current global refugee situation.
and here are some pictures of people recently arriving in Chad having fled from the Congo.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


today laura and i decided to run from third and upper to castlewood drive. i wanted to show her two houses that are for sale. neither of which are actually that cute. on our way back home we took a way that i've never been. we passed the new projects. they look nice on the outside. whether or not they're built well i don't know. we turned right after the projects and passed an extremely thin african-american woman with no front teeth and a couple of band-aids on her forehead. she was faced in the opposite direction being jovial with someone. then we passed her. two sweaty white girls. her smile immediatly turned to a frown. she said something to effect of us being two stringy-haired white girls that needed to get out of her dark-colored neighborhood. that's all i can remember. we were not welcomed by her. she was so angry sounding. she must have been hurt by someone. she scared me with her hateful words.

i came home wondering if black and white people can really be friends. can we live side-by-side? even though i'm from the south, i remember my mother taking us over to visit her black friend at her home in selma, alabama. in a predominantly black neighborhood. my brother and i enjoyed seeing her. she made us our favorite meal. chicken and dumplings. i haven't had any better. we felt safe even though we were out of our "comfort zone".

i'm also reminded of the one man who challenged my grandfather spiritually more than anyone. he was a black man. my pawpaw cherished that friendship. they loved each other and they loved God so very much.

i need forgiveness for doubting that friendships can go beyond race. i'm going to choose to forgive the angry words of that woman to laura and me. we are all hurt and need love.

go see it for yourself

for those of you who want to see it with your own eyes here's a great opportunity. The details for the next Mountain Witness Tour:

Saturday, May 13th, 2006. Carpool leaves Lexington at 9am. Starting at noon in Perry County. We'll arrive bank in Lexington by 8pm.
Carpool leaves Lexington from Eastland Shopping Center(off Winchester Rd) near the True Value. For those meeting us in Perry County instead, we willmeet in the parking area next to the gas station atthe Super Wal-Mart in Hazard on Highway 80.
We will take Central KY environmentalists to see Mountaintop Removal (MTR) and other coal-relatedenvironmental problems in Eastern Kentucky to witness first- hand the destruction of coal mining methodslike Mountaintop Removal. We will also buildconnections with Eastern KY activists to facilitate future actions. KFTC’s Mountain Witness Tours are a chance for people who live in and outside coal- producing counties in Kentucky to come together across county and community lines to learn about the true costs of coal on our communities and our state. These tours are an opportunity to be a witness to the abuses of outlaw coal, to take action for better enforcement and laws to protect our communities, and to move towards a better future beyond coal. We will learn about the impacts of an abandoned deepmine and mountaintop removal on people's lives and thesurrounding environment. After seeing the destruction, we will hear stories of local residents, explore ways to make mining agencies accountable, protect communities in Perry County, and advance our legislative campaigns to Save our Streams from Mining Waste and Make our Roads Safe We will start the day with a potluck lunch at noon, so bring food to share if you can. If you can't, though, please don't let that stop you from coming!

CONTACT: Dave NewtonDave_HN@yahoo.com420-8919 (Call or email me as soon as possible if you'llbecoming)
SPONSORED BY: Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC) A grassroots citizens’ organization that believes inthe power of citizens, working together, to challenge injustices, right wrongs and improve the a quality of life for all Kentuckians. Other upcoming events can be found online at

counting the cost of coal

Three new books -- and attention from Vanity Fair's "green" May issue -- represent a burst of consciousness about a coal industry that has rebounded with the high cost of oil and is high-tailing it up court to score as fast as possible.

Particularly troublesome, as yet only to environmentalists, is this boom's prolific rate of mountaintop-removal extraction -- blasting for coal from the top down -- and the high personal cost of cheap electricity.

the article briefly reviews "LOST MOUNTAIN" By Erik Reece(Riverhead Books), "MISSING MOUNTAINS" Edited by Kristin Johannsen, Bobbie Ann Mason and Mary Ann Taylor-Hall (Wind Publications), and "BIG COAL" By Jeff Goodell(Houghton Mifflin).
see the rest of the piece here...

Monday, April 17, 2006

article on energy efficiency

occasionally, i'll receive an email from the union of concerned scientists. (i may have mentioned this before-it makes me feel smart). today's article is entitled "are energy vampires in your home?" i can understand a bit better now why my husband likes for me to turn electronics off instead of letting them idle in the "on" position. of course, i can't just listen to him.

standby energy loss only makes up for 5% of an individual home's energy loss, but when we put all U.S. households into the equation-we make up for a loss of 65 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year.

consumer cost-5.8 billion annually.

heat trapping CO2 going into the atmosphere each year-87 billion lbs.

some big energy wasters-adapters that come with battery operated cordless phones, cell phones, digital cameras, music players, power tools and other electronic devices. they all draw power when plugged into an outlet. appliances or electronics with standby capability (eg. tv, computer monitors, digital clock displays on microwaves, dvd players, stereos, etc.).

here's a link to a UN article on a multi-country study of the energy consumption of equipment on standby. it's at least worth buzzing through to check out the comparisons of countries. guess who might be on top of the energy consumption list? link

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Getting cleaned up for Easter

Well, the once yearly footwashing ceremony was held at High Street last night, and as always it was a moving and challenging experience. The fact that we can reach out and touch each other in such tender, frightening, and vulnerable ways is to me one of the very best evidences of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives. For without the work of the Holy Spirit I know that I would never feel comfortable exposing myself to other people in this way. But now, after so many years of journeying with folks that I know I can trust, consistently feeling their love, and consequently being gradually restored in my joy and faith in life, I generally look forward to these kinds of intimate encounters. My ability to participate and take joy in following Jesus into these sacraments is an evidence of my healing; but even more importantly it is the evidence of the healing and growth of community of people, without whom the whole work would be impossible. So, I give thanks to everyone who came to participate for giving this gift to me, to each other, and to Jesus as he heads into the darkest of days. And I want to especially thank my wife for making sure that we washed our precious little daughter's feet, and for being able to see her wash Geoff and Sherry's feet in the same bowl simultaneously. I thought that both of these acts were great symbols of our life together and of the goodness of God. So, thanks Maria for doing what you always do, inspiring other people.

william sloane coffin

William Sloane Coffin died yesterday (NY times article here)
this man has been a deep encouragement to me. he seems to have been cut from the same cloth as my favorite 20th century missionary, E. Stanley Jones.

both of these men had a gift for one-liners and carrying a certain passion and hope into dark places. they managed to deal with persistently somber issues while maintaining a joyful tone. i need to be more like this.

here's a taste of the way he communicated...

"I want to join the many people I know in the United States and abroad, and the many more I have yet to meet, who feel as I do that fresh energies have been released, that now is the time to devote themselves anew to the creation of a world without famine, a world without borders, a world at one and at peace. It may well be that our efforts will not be successful if only because what human beings seem most to fear is not the evil in themselves but the good - the good being so demanding. But it's there, stubbornly there, even after we have finished deploring all that is deplorable in human nature. So while not optimistic, I am hopeful. By this I mean that hope, as opposed to cynicism and despair, is the sole precondition for a new and better life. Realism demands pessimism. But hope demands that we take a dark view of the present only because we hold a bright view of the future; and hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible."

(William Sloane Coffin's final paragraph of his autobiography "Once to Every Man", 1977)

(more quotes)

Monday, April 10, 2006

As numerous as the grains of sand.....

Yesterday Maria, Miranda, and I had an opportunity to visit "Arlington West" on the beach just beside the Santa Monica Pier. This makeshift graveyard, a project of "Veteran's for Peace," is taken down and reassembled every single day of the week. In that and many other senses it is one of the most powerful expressions of grieving and counting the awful costs of the violence that goes on daily in our world that I have ever witnessed. I thought it was something good to contemplate as our nation considers the road that lies ahead regarding our "enemies." It is hard sometimes to hear, or believe, the words of Jesus in this world. And what, many are now asking, were those words anyway? (Continue reading....)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Books and Cancer

I recently learned that a friend of mine has cancer.
She reads a lot.
She is out of breath a lot.
She is trying to eat raw as part of her treatment.
She's a really great lady.
And this is awful timing.
I felt myself getting upset at God on her behalf. She has had enough hard and bad in her life--why this?, and why now?
Not because I thought I'd find an answer to this, but I started reading Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzynitzen (sp?). The book tells the story of a number of characters struggling with this disease in the Soviet Union in the 1950s. The author is a cancer survivor, and much of this may be somewhat autobiographical.

I am moved by the isolation that these patients have to endure, and the lack of power that people have over disease, or over death itself. It is fairly foreign to me as I have been well for so much of my life. I keep reading to see what sense these characters make of their disease. I am not sure how this might help me and my friend.

Why Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Jodie and I just heard an interesting radio show. On This American Life, Ira Glass had three stories about neighbors, including a man who went to ask Fred Rogers about how to deal with some of the problems in his neighborhood. Here's where to listen to the show:
I was much struck by the second story. The narrator told of an abusive situation in the shotgun shack next door to her own, and her struggle to be a "good neighbor". She was especially concerned with the girl who lived there, who seemed to be wishing for a relationship with her neighbor, the narrator. This narrator handled the situation with NPR quality irony and self-abasement, but it did seem tragic that even this thoughtful, hopeful, liberal woman was at a loss about how to help in this situation.
In fact, the whole show was about people bumbling through and around neighborliness. It made me wonder about our own home, and how much I hide, and how much I prefer to go straight to my room sometimes without checking on the people around me. The show was a reminder of the discipline that being a neighbor must be. I wonder what I could do to fight my own inertia in this realm.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Maria, Miranda and I are in

Maria, Miranda, and I are in our fourth day in Los Angeles with Greg, Mary, Rachel, and Richard and Julie. It has been a great trip so far even though the journey out here was pretty difficult. After one cancelled flight and numerous delays we didn't arrive in L.A. until about 2:30AM Pacific time Tuesday morning. Miranda did extremely well considering the circumstances, sleeping the entire duration of the flight from Chicago to Los Angeles in my arms (the most amazing feeling despite the fatigue)! Unfortunately, she's caught Maria's cold and has developed a bit of a cough. But she's feeling better today and will hopefully be back to her regular form very soon.(Continue reading....)

In terms of current events, Rachel took a tour of the USC campus today and really enjoyed it. And Greg and I enjoyed a great walk down Venice Beach Blvd. yesterday with Miranda. It is always nice to get a good dose of the street performers and artists. I find the energy and collective creativity of places like this really inspiring. And though there might be issues that I'm ignorant about, the local "authorities" seem to be pretty cool to the homeless folks hanging out and sleeping up and down the boulevard (definitely better and more relaxed than some of the other cities where I've spent time). In regard to the local art, there was one mural in particular that I thought was really cool. It is by a guy named R. Cronk, and he has several substantial murals in the Venice Beach locale. The one that really grabbed my attention was entitled "Homage to Starry Night," and as the name indicates was the artists homage to the famous Vincent Van Gogh painting. It was really tremendous to sit in front of such a huge and brilliant rendition of this moving work of art. And one of the things that really moved Greg and I was the fact that it was painted over fifteen years ago and yet has apparently not suffered any instance of graffiti, damage, or defacement. The painting looks so fresh and vibrant that you'd think it was painted no more than one or two years ago. It has been preserved wonderfully, almost as if the beauty and spirit of the mural has somehow made the space that it occupies sacred and hallowed. The mural made me think about how the experience of beauty moves us into a deeper awareness of the sacred nature of life, and how it thereby has the power to collectively move us toward a deeper respect and appreciation for life. The pictures do not fully do it justice, but I hope that they communicate some of the feel of standing in front of this work of art.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

E.R. Comes to Golfview

Last weekend, while playing around at home slapping hands with JFK, I noticed that his right thumb was swollen to approximately 2-3 times its normal size. I was startled by the sight of it and I asked John what had happened. In characteristic fashion, John hesitated to answer my question, not saying much beyond telling me that it had been that way for over a week. It looked horrid, like it was badly infected, and he was due to be at work at Gattitown in an hour. At that moment I remembered that Scott was planning to come over to the Golfview House that morning to work on painting the kitchen. I asked Maria, who was also shocked at the state of John's thumb, to call Gattitown and tell them that John would probably be late today. Then John and I got into the car and went on up to the Golfview House where we were glad to find Scott working busily along with Troy, Mike, and their next door neighbor Josh. I broke into their work party and showed Scott John's thumb. Even Scott had a hard time believing that John had been walking around for over a week in such a state. He couldn't fathom how John could be tolerating that kind of pain. I asked him what we should do and he said that the most important thing would be to "drain" the thumb and clean up the wound. So, I quickly went back down to the house and got a needle, a lighter, some alcohol, a tube of neosporin, and some bandages. Then the stage was set for Scott to "drain" John's thumb while the rest of us watched. Honestly, it was pretty gross. But on another level it was really wonderful to watch Scott care for John. It was a great example of a group of friends attempting to care for each other's needs with what they have at hand. It was nice to do it together in one of our homes, without the distance and separation that is usually associated with such affairs. It gave me hope about what God is doing in our midst, helping us to learn about a more wholistic and grounded way of life together. At the end of it all, we were even able to get John to work on time!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

We Haven't Just Been Told, We have been Loved the album title for one of our favorite Half-Handed Cloud albums.

last night my dear wife and i went out to enjoy some live music. with the almost-3-year-old and the 4.30am work schedule we are not often out in the evenings...but this was a special gig. mr john ringhofer (otherwise known as half-handed cloud) is an uplifting and joyous artist who is worth every bit of tiredness this morning. now, some of you who have endured my half-handed cloud evangelism will be laughing and whispering under your breath that the experimental sounds of h-hc are at best elmo-esque and at worst, boring and/or confusing. but we love john and his unusual optimism, his sounds and his gospel message. john's recent claim to fame has been his tour as a member of sufjan stevens' band but his own music stands alone as some of the most inspired art i have seen...that is to say, h-hc is more like theatre than just music. we love it.
here is some information about half handed cloud from the asthmatic kitty records site. the official site for the 'band' is here.

liz janes also played last night. we hadn't heard her before but she has an amazing voice and the title track from her poison and snakes album was the highlight of her performance.

altogether three bands played and there was such a sweet sense of family in the space it was easy to forget we were all strangers. this genre of music (not sure what to call it...Indy pop?) levels the playing field or at least diminishes the gap between performer and audience. at one point the first band handed out instruments to invite the audience to join in the music making. it seemed to be the music gig equivalent of an emerging church gathering. after the show we walked out to ride our bikes home and we realized that next door Hank Williams the 3rd was playing. he sounded pretty good but no match for h-hc.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Plant a Row for the Hungry

on sunday at the 3rd st group gathering we talked about the "Plant a Row for the Hungry" program (PAR). i just discovered that there was a short article in the local paper on Saturday about PAR. here is the link and here, below, is the whole article with details about how to participate.
and here is the official site for the PAR program.

Blessed are the fruits of thy garden
Homegrown summer produce is for sharing.
That's the philosophy behind Plant a Row for the Hungry, or PAR, a national program that was started in 1994 by the Garden Writers Association. The goal is to encourage home gardeners to grow extra fruit and vegetables and donate the produce to local food banks and soup kitchens that serve the homeless and the hungry.

This year gardeners are being asked to donate their fresh food contributions to God's Pantry Food Bank, 1685 Jaggie Fox Way. Donations are accepted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. God's Pantry has been working with PAR for five years and has been receiving assistance from the Fayette County Master Gardeners, Lexington Farmers Market, Federal Medical Center and Blackburn Horticulture Club. This year they are joined in their efforts by the Homemakers Association of Fayette County and The Happy Gardener Inc.
Organizations that would like to be a part of this much-needed effort can call Robert Srodulski, food drive coordinator at God's Pantry, (859) 255-6592.

For help in getting started, pick up a brochure, a garden marker and a pack of organic seeds (donated by The Happy Gardener) on April 15 at the Wal-Mart off Richmond Road from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or call the Fayette County Cooperative Extension Service about upcoming events for the Homemakers Association at which it will be promoting the PAR campaign.

To find out about the Madison County PAR campaign, call Micah McKenzie at (859) 626-1815 or Angie Horn at (859) 369-3167.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Booker T.

No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. (reference)

Billy mentioned this quote to me the other day. it is from Booker T. Washington (i can't find an exact source for the quote).

i might say that in my experience there is as much grace to be found in working the soil as there is in exploring theology (or any other "ology" for that matter). i'm already deeply blessed to be working the soil in our garden and planting the seeds that will (hopefully) grow to carry fruit and feed us.

this quote has yet a deeper meaning for us as we grow food in our yard. Washington was a remarkable ambassador for racial reconciliation in his day and our time spent in the garden is frequently punctuated by conversations with our african american neighbors. our garden is creating a space for conversation and an opportunity to learn more about our neighborhood. talking about growing greens and tomatoes with our neighbors has already fostered a sense of mutuality and joint anticipation. by God's grace, there will be more to come.