Tuesday, May 26, 2009

the value of work

i found this article very interesting and not a little provocative.


the value of the work we do is a deeply theological issue - see this book and others by Robert Banks for more on this.


i liked this quote from the article:

A good job requires a field of action where you can put your best capacities to work and see an effect in the world. Academic credentials do not guarantee this.

my own experience working part time in construction has taught me the value of working with my hands.  read the article and comment here if you care to.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hello from Africa

I just wanted to take a minute to say hello to everyone and give you an update on our travels in Africa. Greg and I arrived this morning in Nairobi, Kenya after flying overnight from Dakar, Senegal. We said goodbye to Daniel and Mary after spending one full week with them in Senegal. During that time we were able to get a good tour of Dakar and the surrounding areas in addition to spending 2 days in the town of Tivouane where Daniel lives and the village where he works (as a Peace Corps volunteer). Aside from shaky and at times sickly stomachs (to be expected), our time in Senegal went very well. Daniel has done a tremendous job learning Wolof and French and moves pretty easily between both languages. It was really neat to see him interact with the friends that he's made in the Peace Corps and among the people of Senegal. Daniel made it easy to enjoy our time and make the most of it in circumstances that would have been incredibly challenging without him.

This was the first time that I've been in a country that identifies itself overwhelmingly as a Muslim nation. Instead of churches everywhere you see mosques everywhere and almost every public taxi or bus has a picture of the driver's "meribou", or religious leader, posted prominently. This was a good experience for me. We had some good conversations with some of the muslims that we got to know and felt warmly received.

Our time in the village was one of the highlights of the trip. Daniel has been working with the women in the village to help them develop a fairly traded export market for the beautiful baskets that they make. He's done a great job and it was really wonderful to visit with them and watch them work together at this beautiful craft. I also enjoyed getting to see the amazing "Baobob" trees that grow to enormous thicknesses in the very dry climate. But is was sad to hear about the problems that Senegal is having with desertification and the rapid encroachment of the awesome Sahara Desert.

Along with the visit to the villages another major highlight was the trip that we made to Goree Island on Saturday. Goree was one of the major embarkation points for the West African slave trade. They estimate that more than 2 million human beings were horrifically shipped to the America's from this island. Many of them never even made it off the island as they were kept in miserable conditions without any medical care or necessary nuture. I am sure that many of them simply died of broken hearts. When they died or were very ill they were often dumped into the ocean. Visiting this place was certainly one of the most memorable experiences of my life. The most memorable part was looking out onto the waves crashing over the rocks through the "door of no return." This was the door that led from the prison where the slaves where kept right out onto the shoreline from which they were shipped. It was an unbelievable experience to look through that door and imagine. All I could think about at that moment as I looked down at the rocky shoreline was the scripture that talks about the "rocks will cry out........" It reminded me of when Maria and I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland and were able to look down the stairs where hundreds of thousands walked to their deaths in the gas chambers. Incredible......

We didn't get much sleep on the overnight plane flight from Dakar to Nairobi (about 4000 miles across continent). But we hit the ground running with my friend Richard's Aunt Phyliss visiting the orphanage (Ahadi) that we're helping to fund and the surrounding area. We got to meet some of the kids and witness the incredibly challenging circumstances in which they have to function. They've got a lot of love and support from Ahadi, but many or their stories are heartbreaking and the conditions they have to abide daily are very humbling. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed by the scope of many of the problems here. But I think that God is helping to mature and refine me in this process. And there is, of course, a tremendous amount of beauty, faith and inspiration in the people and places here. It is a great honor to be able to share in life here and learn so many things vital things.

Tomorrow we will begin a week exploring Nairobi visiting some of the Shantytowns, universities and various ministries and relief efforts here. I'm really missing my family and all of you back home. I hope this update helps yo uto share a little bit in our experience. Please keep praying for us as we pray for you......love, keep going....


Wednesday, May 20, 2009


i'm interested to see this movie

wonderfully provocative promo comments...

Bowling for Columbine did it to the gun culture.

Super Size Me did it to fast food.

Now The God Who Wasn't There does it to religion.

The movie that has been astounding audiences in theaters around the world is now available on a high-quality, feature-packed DVD. Own the taboo-shattering documentary that Newsweek says "irreverently lays out the case that Jesus Christ never existed."

is religion really an analog to fast food and guns?  Lord, help us if people generally believe this to be true.  i hope faithful people of God overturn this perception with gracious lives of love and justice.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Slow Money

A couple of weeks ago on my drive back from the farm I heard this NPR story on promoting local economies.

I jotted down the book that was mentioned "Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money" and decided to check it out. While the author is a venture capitalist who talks about economics, the book is far from being overloaded with dry jargon. His journal-esque way of writing is inspired by people like Joan Gussow, Wendell Berry, and E.F. Schumacher.

You can catch excerpts from the book here and the Slow Money Alliance website here.

Monday, May 04, 2009

sharing our voices

Sharing Our Voices

Please join Dr. Aminata Cairo, Dr. Rosalind Harris, their students and immigrant community researchers as they discuss their experiences and findings from their community research project conducted over the last semester. Students were paired with community researchers from various immigrant communities in Lexington to record their experiences and feelings about adjusting to life in Lexington. This community engaged research
project is part of an ongoing effort to improve experiences and services for new immigrants in the Bluegrass. Please come hear what refugees and immigrants in our community have to say so we can all do our part to improve services and make Lexington a stronger community! Please see the attached flyer and distribute widely!



Isabel Gereda Taylor Multicultural Affairs Coordinator 

Lexington-Fayette Government Center

200 E. Main Street

Lexington, KY 40507

Phone (859) 258-3824

Fax (859) 258-3406

Saturday, May 02, 2009

urban orchard piece

check our local paper for this article about our urban gardening work.  communality folks were a huge help last weekend and seedleaf gets a mention.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Heartbreak and Hope........

One of the fundamental things that I've learned over the last eleven years of living in community with the beauty and dysfunction of life is that heartbreak and hope always go together. They cannot live without each other; they cannot be separated. As horrendously irreconciliable and opposed as they often seem, they are ultimately as symbiotic as soil and water. I had a couple of different experiences today that made me have to account once again for this tumultuous marriage of heartbreak and hope. In relating them I want to invert the order of their occurence. That is one thing that we can control, and is often times the only way to make sense of the sequence of at once difficult and divine events.

So, I decided this morning to visit an old neighbor who recently called me and told me he was working at a local machine shop. He sounded content and it seemed like he'd really found a good job situation. I got to know him pretty well while we were neighbors and we spent quite a bit of time together. Through various circumstances (many within his control) he became homeless and lived for quite some time at the Hope Center. He was a regular at Phoenix Park and I occassionally spent time with him whenever passing through on my way to the bank. He did some work for me and through it all we managed to remain connected and encourage each other, largely due to his initiative. So, I stopped by his shop this morning and learned that he was no longer employed there. "He's one of the folks that got caught up in the lay-offs," said an office employee politely. I walked away feeling shaken and disturbed. The reality of the current economic crisis just became a lot more personal for me. I will not say more here........

Earlier in the morning, as I was leaving home, I saw one of my neighbors, garbage bag and tongs in hand, picking up small pieces of trash along our street and the Meadowthorpe Mall that fronts our neighborhood. She and her husband do this and many other things for the neighborhood routinely. They are an amazing example of servanthood and civic commitment. As I watched her picking up the trash my mind immediately went in several different directions. I thought about writing a note to thank her and her husband for their sterling example. At the same time I thought about all of the time that I've spent in poor urban environments where trash is regularly thrown on to the streets and vacant lots quickly become de facto junkyards. I found my thoughts ensnared quickly in a quandary. Can I honestly expect people in poor, essentially forgotten about neighborhoods, to pick up trash like my middle-class neighbors? Can I honestly expect them to display an attitude of "civic duty" when they're struggling to survive the next mortgage/rent payment, find the next job, overcome the next illness, recover from the last deadbeat boyfriend,..........? Can I honestly expect them to care about the appearance of a corner on which someone they knew personally got shot, or about a city and a society that does not pay them a livable wage, discriminates against them, and only seems to think about their neighborhood when it is time to talk about redevelopment? The only reason that my neighbors pick up trash is because they have the time, they have the luxury, they have the means......right? My neighbor's sense of duty and commitment flows from a life of relative privilege, a life of security, opportunity, a life without discrimination or excessive reasons to renounce hope....right? When you strip everything else away the "cleanliness" and "beauty" of wealthier neighborhoods only masks the dirt and filth of unjust and discriminatory societal structures that are used (at the expense of others) to make sullied lives look clean.......right? These questions are overwhelming at times for me. I'm sorry if this relatively raw discourse upsets any apple carts.......but it is upsetting mine......mostly in the right ways....I think?

Anyhow, I took hope in watching my neighbor pick up trash this morning and do things for our neighborhood that I'm always too "busy" to do because I'm trying to "do good" somewhere else. And at the same time I'm heartbroken about my friend who fought his way up from homelessness only (or is it only?) to "get caught up" in the Tsunami of lay-offs (confirmed victims in the millions).....and I'm heartbroken about all the neighborhoods where trash lies strewn in the streets and the people have no time, resources or reason to pick it up...because they're just struggling to survive...and where boarded up homes are abandoned while people sleep on the garbage strewn sidewalks.....it is definitely far easier for me and my neighbors to pick up the trash-so is there any real value in our efforts? I believe that there is and always can be....no matter where you are...but that is easy for me to say......right?

bus stops and missio dei

sherry and i continue to be formed by our attempts at mission in our household.  one of the lessons we have learned over the last five years is the high value of bus stops.  our home sits on a corner with two bus stops and we are daily given the blessing of meeting people for the first time and deepening relationships with regular commuters.  a simple "hello" or longer conversations serve our love of "neighborliness" as we go about our work to "seek the welfare of the city" (jer. 29).

so, if you are looking to rent or own, we encourage you to consider this as a factor as you wonder about a place to make your home.  as is so often the case, these 'ordinary' factors become well springs for the holy work of loving a place and its people.