Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Gift Ideas that Really Matter.

Many of you may know that I am preparing to leave tomorrow morning for a disaster relief trip to the Dominican Republic in the wake of Hurricane (formerly Tropical Storm) Noel. The area where One Vision International bought land was one of the areas hardest hit by the disaster, and we are going to deliver medicine, clean food and water, and other supplies.

Before we leave, I wanted to let you guys know of an amazing opportunity this Christmas. All of us struggle with what to get for certain people. Some people are easy to buy for, but others leave us wondering what in the world they could possibly want, since they have everything that they need. What if you could buy a gift for that person, and help change the world at the same time?

That's exactly what you can do with the Gift Catalog from One Vision! You can order many different types of gifts with any type of budget. Please browse through the catalog and use this order form to communicate your gift choices with us. It is an amazing opportunity to give a truely unique gift this Christmas. Please let me know if you have any questions!

If you want to sign up for the One Vision mailing list and receive this catalog via mail, please just send me a message with your mailing address! Thanks guys. Please feel free to send these links to anyone you think may be interested!

Monday, October 29, 2007


Hi everyone!

Well, I have some wonderful news. Ryan is not home, but he will be soon! The judge was fair, sincere, and kind. We got a chance to observe him in several cases before he got to Ryan's, and it was actually a really cool experience. There was one case that made everyone in the courtroom cry. I would love to write about it, but I know a lot of you are anxious to know what happened. Maybe I'll save that for another time.

So basically, they were sentencing Ryan for two different charges from 2002 that have been on hold while he's been locked up in Tennessee. Both charges carry 8-10 month sentences, and the judge back then ruled that they were to be served consecutively, meaning a total of 16-20 months in prison. It is basically unheard of for a judge to overturn another judge's ruling, but that is exactly what happened today. The judge is allowing Ryan to serve the two sentences concurrent with one another, meaning that depending on the amount of time they will credit him from what he served in 2002 and what he's served since he's been there this time, he will only have to serve between three and seven more months. Yea!!! It's been such a happy day.

The officer who was taking Ryan in and out of the court room asked him as he was walking back out into the hallway, "Do you believe in God?" Ryan said, "Yes, sir." And the officer said, "Well, good, because you just witnessed a miracle. I've been in that court room for years, and I have never seen him do what he just did. Never."

Praise God. Thank you for your prayers! Now pray for three months instead of seven. :-)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Ryan's Court Date.

Hi everyone,
I just wanted to ask a quick favor. Most of you know Ryan, or at least know of him. Tomorrow (Monday), he is going up before a judge in North Carolina to find out if he will be released and paroled to Tennessee, or if he will have to do up to a year and a half more time there. He has been locked up since September 2003.
Please be praying for him, and that the judge will allow him to come home. It's not likely, but anything is possible at this point. Most of all, please be praying that we will all be at peace with whatever happens. God's timing is always perfect, even when we don't understand it (or like it very much ).
I'll keep you guys posted. Thanks for praying.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Embracing Accusation.

My friend Bryan let me listen to a song a few weeks ago called "Embracing Accusation" by Shane & Shane. As he shared its meaning with me, I knew that it was a profound song. And I listened to it once or twice. Today, I listened to it again. And this time, I really listened. I couldn't suppress my tears or my smile as I listened to these powerful words. So of course, I wanted to share it with you guys.

I will try and give you a general overview. The Bible calls Satan the "father of lies," because he does everything he can to draw us away from God. This song in particular is talking about how Satan tries to weigh us down under the guilt of our sin by reminding us how worthless we are and crippling us with self deprication when we fail. But there is truth in this lie. We are unworthy. We have failed. But here's the good news - the part that Satan leaves out: there is freedom in Christ. Jesus has taken our place and offered himself as a perfect sacrifice to cover the cost of our sins. God is not a God of guilt. He does not want us to live in shame. He desires that we live in the abiding joy that his grace and mercy bring.

Anyway, the song is on my page. So turn your speakers up, close your eyes (or read along with the lyrics below), and enjoy. I hope it means as much to you as it did to me. Thanks for sharing it, Bryan.

the father of lies
coming to steal, kill, and destroy
all my hopes of being good enough
I hear him saying cursed are the ones
who can't abide
he's right
alleluia he's right

the devil is preaching
the song of the redeemed
that I am cursed and gone astray
I cannot gain salvation
embracing accusation

could the father of lies
be telling the truth
of God to me tonight
if the penalty of sin is death
then death is mine
I hear him saying cursed are the ones
who can't abide
he's right
alleluia he's right

the devil is preaching
the song of the redeemed
that I am cursed and gone astray
I cannot gain salvation

oh the devil's singing over me
an age old song
that I am cursed and gone astray
singing the first verse so conveniently
over me
he's forgotten the refrain
Jesus saves!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A poor attempt to describe the inexplicable.

I just listened to an amazing woman tell the story of how God drew her to him, and I find myself sitting here quite speechless, yet with the need to attempt to express some of the musings with which my spirit is currently overwhelmed.

God is amazing. It seems a trite statement, perhaps, but it is all that I can say. His supremacy and his sovereignty are beyond my limited human comprehension. Every once in awhile we are allowed to see just a glimpse of how he works all things together for his good, and these tiny windows of insight are enough to baffle our minds.

God, you are good, perfect, and worthy of more praise than we can give and infinitely more glory than we can try to reflect. We are all destitute before you. I desperately cry out for your guidance, knowing that I have not the wisdom nor the determination to make the choices I should. Lord, let me be a faithful servant. The best deeds I could ever hope to accomplish would still be but filthy rags, and I thank you that because of your grace, they need not be more than that - a meager attempt at an offering to you. Thank you for your mercy and love that has spared us the dues of our actions. Thank you for making it possible for us to have a relationship with you, and thereby experience the only true joy and peace we could ever hope to know. Thank you for seeing each of us, laid bare with all our weaknesses exposed, and lavishing your pure and perfect love upon us.

You are too marvelous for words. Forgive my poor attempt. Teach me to love you, and to love those whom you love.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Much Anticipated Kenya Blog.

And by much anticipated, do not think that I have such delusions of grandeur that I believe you've been on the edge of your seats waiting to read this. I simply mean that I have been both eagerly and anxiously looking forward to writing it.

There is always a degree of trepidation when one tries to pen an accurate account of something like a mission trip (or any other event that has a tendency to cause involved parties to see a distinction in their lives before and after). First of all, you want to do the experience justice, and usually feel that no matter your literary skills (or lack thereof), that feat cannot be accomplished. Secondly, each person on a trip may have had a completely different experience, making the writer feel the need to speak not in concrete experiences, but rather subjective ones. Third, there is a shared experience, and thereby culture, which everything is then filtered through. Participants often begin to realize this as they come back to their normative culture and find that no one else seems to "get it."

So with all of that said, I will say... it was too short. Most of you have heard me say this already, but it is honestly my number one reaction to the question, "How was it?" It is always particularly difficult for me to leave a place like that, because I see it as my future, and sometimes want to skip ahead to that point. But it is also very exciting for me to see the possibilities of what my future holds, and it allows me to come back to my current life with renewed energy to prepare myself for whatever future plan God has for me. But you probably are looking for a more practical account with less of my babbling internal thought process.

Basically, we played with the kids. We taught them kick-ball, duck duck goose, how to blow bubbles, crafts, and other things. It is impossible to be around this group of kids and not be smiling from ear to ear. They were so kind, welcoming, loving, and excited. My favorite part of the trip was when the rest of the group hiked a mountain, which I couldn't climb because of my knee. I was sad that I wouldn't be able to go. But instead, I got to just hang out with the kids for about 3 hours. They showed me around the whole campus, invited me into their dorm rooms, asked me tons of questions, told me their dreams for their lives, and stole my heart. There are not a lot of times in my life that I have felt an immediate sense of belonging. It speaks volumes to me, confirming what I believe to be my calling, that it's places like this where I feel that I truly belong. I will put up pictures of the kids that I spent that afternoon with soon, so that you can "meet" them. On a side note, these kids need sponsors to be able to continue in school and realize the dreams that they shared with me. It's only $28 a month. You can feed a family for only $8 a month. There are countless other ways to make a difference, which I think you will want to when you see their beautiful faces. If so, just let me know.

I was also so blessed to get to know the people on our team. Shane (the missionary in Kenya) suggested that we take turns sharing our testimonies in the evenings, and it allowed us to find out things about one another that I never would have expected. It's funny to me that the people I had only ever seen on Sunday mornings, dressed up (as much as we actually dress up at Providence), were now sitting in their pajamas with bare feet and bare souls, sharing with the kind of vulnerability that churches seem to aim for and miss. A trip like this shows you the faults of everyone there, but I can honestly say that I love each of them more now, knowing the scars and imperfections, than I did when I saw them as unblemished and unfamiliar. I hope they can say the same of me.

There are so many more things that I could write about, but this is already very long, and I have the sense that most of you have stopped reading (proper blog etiquette requires, by the way, that you leave a comment if you read). So, I will answer the questions that I haven't already touched on.

What was the funniest thing that happened? Hm... I think I'm going to have to go with a group of five ladies, John Miller, and a French guy who kept reminding us how big of a deal it was that he was helping us all pushing our van out of the mud when we got stuck in the game park. Quality entertainment (once we were out, safe, warm, and clean). Oh, and we bought a live chicken in the middle of a church service. That's a story for another time and another place.

When are you going back? As soon as possible, but realistically, maybe as soon as next year. It depends on a lot of things, including what my role with One Vision becomes in the next year.

What, is the circumference of a moose? I love my family.

Are you going to move to Kenya and care for orphans forever? Not today. That is still my dream, yes.

If you were forced to watch one reality show over and over, what would you pick? Hm... probably So You Think You Can Dance.

What was the most lifechanging moment of the trip? Probably a quiet time that I had at about 3am the second or third day we were there. Oh, or maybe the first night we got there. We stayed at a convent, and I was so absolutely exhausted from traveling and not sleeping in like two days or however long it had been. I crawled into bed with the mosquito netting floating gently and sweetly around me, feeling the breeze from the open window, smelling and hearing Africa outside. I laid there, drifting into sleep, and could not remember ever feeling as happy or peaceful in my whole life as I did in that moment. It was yet another confirmation that God gave me on this trip.

Do you still want to go back and live/work in an orphanage full time one day? Yes.

What was the best part about going? I learned so much about following God from this trip, from the way that he arranged for and allowed me to go, to the things that he taught me there through our experiences, and through Shane and his family. I think the things that he has been trying to tell me for a long time became suddenly clear in Kenya. And I was finally able to spend time in an orphanage, and see that what I've been dreaming of all these years is truly a reality, and a possibility.

Was there anything you missed? My puppy sleeping curled up next to me at night.

I wish I could write more about things like Chris and Eunice, both of whom came to know Christ through women in our group, but I have already written far too much. Thanks to all of you guys who support me, pray for me, and encourage me to follow Christ in my life. There is nothing better in the world than to know the joy that comes from knowing him and following him, and I just want to say thank you to those of you that have helped show me that over the years.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Your Questions.

So, I will eventually blog about our time in Kenya. But as of now, I am too tired to attempt to put together a logical train of thought. Therefore, I am giving you the opportunity to ask questions, which I will then answer in blog form when I wake up from this amazing jet-lag induced stupor. Love all of you. Thanks for praying for me while we were gone. It was good! Seriously, ask some questions.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stop Trying to Save Africa.

My friend Art showed me this article and asked me what I thought about it. I couldn't resist sharing it. This writer articulates what has been stirring ineffably in my heart since my trip to South Africa in 2004, when we discussed things like this at great length.

While it is our duty as Christians to care about our brothers and sisters suffering around the globe, we must do so from a position of love through Christ - an equalizing love that regards others as better than ourselves and all of us as destitute before an infinitely holy God. Instead, we often approach humanitarian efforts with the position of a "white benefactor" coming to solve the problems of poor, uneducated Africans or even minority groups in our own country. This mindset is how the English (who - as he mentions in the article - went over as missionaries, intending to help) ended up in positions of authority in South Africa in the first place, morphing over time into the violent, unjust system that became apartheid.

It's great to do the right thing. But sometimes we do the right thing for the wrong reasons, which, in the end, can end up being a very dangerous thing. I would be very interested to know what you guys think about this. The article is from the Washington Post. Please comment!
Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa

By Uzodinma Iweala
Sunday, July 15, 2007; Page B07

Last fall, shortly after I returned from Nigeria, I was accosted by a perky blond college student whose blue eyes seemed to match the "African" beads around her wrists.

"Save Darfur!" she shouted from behind a table covered with pamphlets urging students to TAKE ACTION NOW! STOP GENOCIDE IN DARFUR!

My aversion to college kids jumping onto fashionable social causes nearly caused me to walk on, but her next shout stopped me.

"Don't you want to help us save Africa?" she yelled.

It seems that these days, wracked by guilt at the humanitarian crisis it has created in the Middle East, the West has turned to Africa for redemption. Idealistic college students, celebrities such as Bob Geldof and politicians such as Tony Blair have all made bringing light to the dark continent their mission. They fly in for internships and fact-finding missions or to pick out children to adopt in much the same way my friends and I in New York take the subway to the pound to adopt stray dogs.

This is the West's new image of itself: a sexy, politically active generation whose preferred means of spreading the word are magazine spreads with celebrities pictured in the foreground, forlorn Africans in the back. Never mind that the stars sent to bring succor to the natives often are, willingly, as emaciated as those they want to help.

Perhaps most interesting is the language used to describe the Africa being saved. For example, the Keep a Child Alive/" I am African" ad campaign features portraits of primarily white, Western celebrities with painted "tribal markings" on their faces above "I AM AFRICAN" in bold letters. Below, smaller print says, "help us stop the dying."

Such campaigns, however well intentioned, promote the stereotype of Africa as a black hole of disease and death. News reports constantly focus on the continent's corrupt leaders, warlords, "tribal" conflicts, child laborers, and women disfigured by abuse and genital mutilation. These descriptions run under headlines like "Can Bono Save Africa?" or "Will Brangelina Save Africa?" The relationship between the West and Africa is no longer based on openly racist beliefs, but such articles are reminiscent of reports from the heyday of European colonialism, when missionaries were sent to Africa to introduce us to education, Jesus Christ and "civilization."

There is no African, myself included, who does not appreciate the help of the wider world, but we do question whether aid is genuine or given in the spirit of affirming one's cultural superiority. My mood is dampened every time I attend a benefit whose host runs through a litany of African disasters before presenting a (usually) wealthy, white person, who often proceeds to list the things he or she has done for the poor, starving Africans. Every time a well-meaning college student speaks of villagers dancing because they were so grateful for her help, I cringe. Every time a Hollywood director shoots a film about Africa that features a Western protagonist, I shake my head -- because Africans, real people though we may be, are used as props in the West's fantasy of itself. And not only do such depictions tend to ignore the West's prominent role in creating many of the unfortunate situations on the continent, they also ignore the incredible work Africans have done and continue to do to fix those problems.

Why do the media frequently refer to African countries as having been "granted independence from their colonial masters," as opposed to having fought and shed blood for their freedom? Why do Angelina Jolie and Bono receive overwhelming attention for their work in Africa while Nwankwo Kanu or Dikembe Mutombo, Africans both, are hardly ever mentioned? How is it that a former mid-level U.S. diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?

Two years ago I worked in a camp for internally displaced people in Nigeria, survivors of an uprising that killed about 1,000 people and displaced 200,000. True to form, the Western media reported on the violence but not on the humanitarian work the state and local governments -- without much international help -- did for the survivors. Social workers spent their time and in many cases their own salaries to care for their compatriots. These are the people saving Africa, and others like them across the continent get no credit for their work.

Last month the Group of Eight industrialized nations and a host of celebrities met in Germany to discuss, among other things, how to save Africa. Before the next such summit, I hope people will realize Africa doesn't want to be saved. Africa wants the world to acknowledge that through fair partnerships with other members of the global community, we ourselves are capable of unprecedented growth.

Uzodinma Iweala is the author of "Beasts of No Nation," a novel about child soldiers.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Perfunctory indisposition.

I am not a fan of being sick. You might think I was, seeing as how I pass so much of my time that way. But I truly do not enjoy it. The problem that I find most annoying about continual sickness is that I cannot see the point.

In emotional trials, I can often find solace because I know that God is growing me and helping me learn to be a better, kinder, more loving, more understanding person. Very rarely has physical sickness helped me learn a lesson like that. Most of the time, it just annoys me and prevents me from acting out love in ways that I wish to because I don't feel well.

However, I am sure this means that I am missing the point entirely. Who am I to question the ways of an infinite, holy, omnipotent, omnipresent God who created me and therefore knows more about me (and simultaneously about everyone else on the planet) than I could ever hope to know? Even if I don't know the point, there is one. In that I have full confidence.

I wish I could be more like Mother Teresa, who saw every opportunity to suffer as a way to join with her beloved Christ in his sufferings. I wish I remembered to offer up every ache, pain, or sickness as an offering of praise. Right now I feel like if my head didn't hurt so much, I might remember to do so.

Lord, help me not to miss the point. Let me find joy in you because of ~ not in spit of ~ these tiny inconveniences that cannot even be called trials next to what people in this world face daily.

Monday, June 18, 2007

New music.

Tomorrow is a great day in the music world. Seriously, like 8 million bands are releasing new CDs tomorrow. And that doesn't even count all the great new stuff coming throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall. If I went to Best Buy tomorrow, I believe it would be physically impossible for me to walk out of the store with less than five CDs. But since it is financially impossible, I must stay far, far away.

P.S. We named the dog Professor Lupin. If you think it's a stupid name, then you are stupid. Just kidding. But you should read more Harry Potter. :-)

P.P.S. If you're not watching So You Think You Can Dance, you really should be.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

An update from a friend.

I got an e-mail today letting me know that one of my friends had posted an update to his page. This particular friend is currently doing something called the World Race. They go to 11 different countries in a 12 month period, doing various projects, building relationships, etc. As a side note, I will admit to being completely jealous.

His latest update was so moving that I wanted to share it with you guys. If you have time, read his other posts as well, and go to his photo site and look at some of the AMAZING pictures that he has taken. Anyway, go check out Tim's website and see what is going on in the world around us.

And you just have to see this picture. It gave me chills.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Vote to name the dog!

I would like to introduce you to the love of my life. I know, I know. He's ugly. But he is the sweetest dog you have ever met. And he loves me, too. :-)

Now, we need a name for him. Current front runners are Nelson and Professor Lupin (or some shorter variation), but I am entertaining all ideas at this point. Vote for your favorite name or throw another one into the mix! I need your help!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Modern day slavery.

I recently finished reading this book, and I wanted to share it with you guys because of the profound effect it had on me. It is very easy to read. I finished it in two sittings.

This story is the memoir of a woman named Mende who was abducted from her village as a young child. She was beaten and raped, forced to work endless hours with no pay, subjected to mental torture (on top of the physical), and taught that she was nothing more than a worthless slave. I'm sure you've heard these stories before. But here is the unique part about Mende's story. She is my age. She is living today.

While I was in school complaining that I didn't fit in or worried because no one liked me, she was fighting for her life. She talks about one date in particular - New Year's Eve, 1999. I remember what I was doing that night, too. She was working as a slave. I was sitting at home, feeling sorry for myself because I was sick and had nowhere to go.

It is so easy to see ourselves as the main character in our stories. After all, we don't know anyone else's story like we know our own. However, this book showed me once again that we are all but a small part of a bigger story. I am not the main character. We have a bigger purpose. We exist for more than to work, make money, buy nice things, then die "happy." None of those things end up mattering in the end.

"...your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
~ Matthew 6:10

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

...because they know his voice.

Sometimes you say a prayer, wait for an answer, and still have to step out in faith, not knowing for sure if you've made the right decision. Then, on beautiful days like today, things happen that confirm that yes, that was the tiny voice of the Lord guiding your heart in that process. Yes, your decision was right. Maybe I, a stupid and wandering sheep, am finally learning to listen to the sound of my shepherd's voice.

"He calls his sheep by name and leads them out... he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice."
~ John 10:3-4

They know his voice. At Christmas this year, this passage became one of my favorites. My "niece" (and by niece, I mean her parents are some of my best friends and insist on calling me "Auntie Cankles" to their child whom I love so dearly) taught me a beautiful lesson. Lindsay and Kenna were sitting next to me at church, and Bryan was leading worship. Between songs, Bryan started to speak. Kenna, who had almost fallen asleep, started waking up and fussing. She had heard her father's voice, and was straining to find him in that room full of people. She began to whimper because she couldn't see him.

Tears filled my eyes for two reasons - first, because I realized how many children do not have the privilege of recognizing their father's voice. They grow up in this scary, fallen world without the protection of that loving voice. But second, because I realized what a beautiful picture that is. We should know our Father's voice. We should strive to hear it, and to see him in the midst of whatever crowded moment we are living in. His voice should carry over all distractions.

I'm not sure where all of this came from. I guess I always have revelations when I get to see the sun rise. :-)

Friday, May 11, 2007

Free Live Recordings.

Hey guys! Ben Gibbard (Postal Service, Death Cab for Cutie) and David Bazan (Pedro the Lion) did a concert last night in D.C., and it was featured on the concert series of NPR. So, that means you can listen to the live performances for free on! Very exciting, especially for those of us who live in cities not cool enough to bring in these types of musicians. :-)

Have a lovely day! Oh, and Happy World Fair Trade Day tomorrow, May 12th. Visit Ten Thousand Villages or the Fair Trade Federation to learn more. Find your local fair trade store and support them!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Joy in Suffering.

God is so amazing. Sometimes I just have to sit back and admire the intricacies of his work in this world. It's so easy to miss it. Yet when you look for it, it surrounds you inescapably.

I've been privileged to sit under the teaching of the book of Job recently, and found myself wondering while listening why I wasn't suffering in my life. After all, as it says in Romans 5, suffering produces perseverance, character, and hope. So while wondering that, I suddenly begin facing all these independently unimportant challenges that, when piled all together, began to rob me of the joy I have in Christ. I have been frustrated, grumpy, and feeling slighted at every turn. I have been selfish and quick to anger instead of "abounding in love," which covers a multitude of wrongs.

Today, I suddenly realized that all of these things are my opportunity to grow - they are a type of suffering! No matter how miniscule the trial, if I am not using it to allow Christ to refine me to his image, I am not making the best of my situation. It was one of those beautiful times when you feel smart for a moment, then stupid for not realizing your simple mistake before.

God, help me to always see each trial, no matter how slight, as an opportunity to be molded to your image. I want to be more like you every day, no matter what that entails. I know this is a bold prayer, but (I think, I hope, I pray) it is the true desire of my heart. If I don't truly desire that the world see you glorified, then I have no purpose on this earth. Let my weaknesses be holes through which your glory shines.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

New Top Friends.

Please take a moment to check out my new top friends list. Some of these are organizations (like the ONE Campaign or Invisible Children) that I have known about and supported for awhile. Others, I am still learning about.

Please use these links to learn more about the issues that affect our world, and what we can do to share the hope and love of Christ with those around us (although not all of these are Christian organizations, they are doing things that I believe Christians should care about). Love you guys. :-)

P.S. Read this book. :-)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bono's Remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast

I realize that this is old news, and that it's lengthy. However, it is really good, and I thought you guys might enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Bono's Remarks to the National Prayer Breakfast

On February 2, the National Prayer Breakfast, attended by President Bush and members of Congress, along with BFW President David Beckmann, featured Bono as the main speaker. His remarks on behalf of the ONE Campaign challenged the United States to "tithe" an additional 1 percent of the federal budget to fight poverty worldwide.
Below are Bono's remarks:

Thank you.

Mr. President, First Lady, King Abdullah, other heads of State, Members of Congress, distinguished guests…

Please join me in praying that I don't say something we'll all regret.

That was for the FCC.

If you're wondering what I'm doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather. It's certainly not because I'm a rock star. Which leaves one possible explanation: I'm here because I've got a messianic complex.

Yes, it's true. And for anyone who knows me, it's hardly a revelation.

Well, I'm the first to admit that there's something unnatural… something unseemly… about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the South of France. Talk about a fish out of water. It was weird enough when Jesse Helms showed up at a U2 concert… but this is really weird, isn't it?

You know, one of the things I love about this country is its separation of church and state. Although I have to say: in inviting me here, both church and state have been separated from something else completely: their mind. .

Mr. President, are you sure about this?

It's very humbling and I will try to keep my homily brief. But be warned—I'm Irish.

I'd like to talk about the laws of man, here in this city where those laws are written. And I'd like to talk about higher laws. It would be great to assume that the one serves the other; that the laws of man serve these higher laws… but of course, they don't always. And I presume that, in a sense, is why you're here.

I presume the reason for this gathering is that all of us here—Muslims, Jews, Christians—all are searching our souls for how to better serve our family, our community, our nation, our God.

I know I am. Searching, I mean. And that, I suppose, is what led me here, too.

Yes, it's odd, having a rock star here—but maybe it's odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was… well, a little blurry, and hard to see.

I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays… and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.

For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land… and in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash… in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment…

I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.

Even though I was a believer.

Perhaps because I was a believer.

I was cynical… not about God, but about God's politics. (There you are, Jim.)

Then, in 1997, a couple of eccentric, septuagenarian British Christians went and ruined my shtick—my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the Millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year, as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world's poorest people. They had the audacity to renew the Lord's call—and were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from an Irish half-Catholic's point of view, may have had a more direct line to the Almighty.

'Jubilee'—why 'Jubilee'?

What was this year of Jubilee, this year of our Lords favor?

I'd always read the Scriptures, even the obscure stuff. There it was in Leviticus (25:35)…

'If your brother becomes poor,' the Scriptures say, 'and cannot maintain himself… you shall maintain him… You shall not lend him your money at interest, not give him your food for profit.'

It is such an important idea, Jubilee, that Jesus begins his ministry with this. Jesus is a young man, he's met with the rabbis, impressed everyone, people are talking. The elders say, he's a clever guy, this Jesus, but he hasn't done much… yet. He hasn't spoken in public before…

When he does, is first words are from Isaiah: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,' he says, 'because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.' And Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord's favour, the year of Jubilee. (Luke 4:18)

What he was really talking about was an era of grace—and we're still in it.

So fast-forward 2,000 years. That same thought, grace, was made incarnate—in a movement of all kinds of people. It wasn't a bless-me club… it wasn't a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get out in the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards, follow their convictions with actions… making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people.

But then my cynicism got another helping hand.

It was what Colin Powell, a five-star general, called the greatest W.M.D. of them all: a tiny little virus called A.I.D.S. And the religious community, in large part, missed it. The one's that didn't miss it could only see it as divine retribution for bad behaviour. Even on children… Even fastest growing group of HIV infections were married, faithful women.

Aha, there they go again! I thought to myself Judgmentalism is back!

But in truth, I was wrong again. The church was slow but the church got busy on this the leprosy of our age.

Love was on the move.

Mercy was on the move.

God was on the move.

Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet… Conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS… Soccer moms and quarterbacks… hip-hop stars and country stars… This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!

Popes were seen wearing sunglasses!

Jesse Helms was seen with a ghetto blaster!

Crazy stuff. Evidence of the spirit.

It was breathtaking. Literally. It stopped the world in its tracks.

When churches started demonstrating on debt, governments listened—and acted. When churches starting organising, petitioning, and even—that most unholy of acts today, God forbid, lobbying… on AIDS and global health, governments listened—and acted.

I'm here today in all humility to say: you changed minds; you changed policy; you changed the world.

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.

I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. "If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places"

It's not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. [You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.] 'As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.' (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

Here's some good news for the President. After 9-11 we were told America would have no time for the World's poor. America would be taken up with its own problems of safety. And it's true these are dangerous times, but America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors.

In fact, you have doubled aid to Africa. You have tripled funding for global health. Mr. President, your emergency plan for AIDS relief and support for the Global Fund—you and Congress—have put 700,000 people onto life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and provided 8 million bed nets to protect children from malaria.

Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive. Historic. Be very, very proud.

But here's the bad news. From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There's is much more to do. There's a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.

And finally, it's not about charity after all, is it? It's about justice.

Let me repeat that: It's not about charity, it's about justice.

And that's too bad.

Because you're good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can't afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn't accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature". In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's a completely avoidable catastrophe.

It's annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren't they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, "Equal?" A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, "Yeah, 'equal,' that's what it says here in this book. We're all made in the image of God."

And eventually the Pharaoh says, "OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews—but not the blacks."

"Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man."

So on we go with our journey of equality.

On we go in the pursuit of justice.

We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than two million Americans… left and right together… united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.

We hear that call even more powerfully today, as we mourn the loss of Coretta Scott King—mother of a movement for equality, one that changed the world but is only just getting started. These issues are as alive as they ever were; they just change shape and cross the seas.

Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market… that's a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents… That's a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents… that's a justice issue.

And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject.

That's why I say there's the law of the land… and then there is a higher standard. There's the law of the land, and we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so the laws say it's OK to protect our agriculture but it's not OK for African farmers to do the same, to earn a living?

As the laws of man are written, that's what they say.

God will not accept that.

Mine won't, at least. Will yours?


I close this morning on … very… thin… ice.

This is a dangerous idea I've put on the table: my God vs. your God, their God vs. our God… vs. no God. It is very easy, in these times, to see religion as a force for division rather than unity.

And this is a town—Washington—that knows something of division.

But the reason I am here, and the reason I keep coming back to Washington, is because this is a town that is proving it can come together on behalf of what the Scriptures call the least of these.

This is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is not even, with all due respect, an American idea. Nor it is unique to any one faith.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.' (Luke 6:30) Jesus says that.

'Righteousness is this: that one should… give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.' The Koran says that. (2.177)

Thus sayeth the Lord: 'Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring fourth, then your Lord will be your rear guard.' The Jewish scripture says that. Isaiah 58 again.

That is a powerful incentive: 'The Lord will watch your back.' Sounds like a good deal to me, right now.

A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord's blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it… I have a family, please look after them… I have this crazy idea…

And this wise man said: stop.

He said, stop asking God to bless what you're doing.

Get involved in what God is doing—because it's already blessed.

Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.

And that is what He's calling us to do.

I was amazed when I first got to this country and I learned how much some churchgoers tithe. Up to ten percent of the family budget. Well, how does that compare the federal budget, the budget for the entire American family? How much of that goes to the poorest people in the world? Less than one percent.

Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America:

I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing…. Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional one percent of the federal budget tithed to the poor.

What is one percent?

One percent is not merely a number on a balance sheet.

One percent is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. One percent is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. One percent is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business thanks to you. One percent is not redecorating presidential palaces or money flowing down a rat hole. This one percent is digging waterholes to provide clean water.

One percent is a new partnership with Africa, not paternalism towards Africa, where increased assistance flows toward improved governance and initiatives with proven track records and away from boondoggles and white elephants of every description.

America gives less than one percent now. Were asking for an extra one percent to change the world. to transform millions of lives—but not just that and I say this to the military men now – to transform the way that they see us.

One percent is national security, enlightened economic self interest, and a better safer world rolled into one. Sounds to me that in this town of deals and compromises, one percent is the best bargain around.

These goals—clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty—these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a Globalised World.

Now, I'm very lucky. I don't have to sit on any budget committees. And I certainly don't have to sit where you do, Mr. President. I don't have to make the tough choices.

But I can tell you this:

To give one percent more is right. It's smart. And it's blessed.

There is a continent—Africa—being consumed by flames.

I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did—or did not to—to put the fire out in Africa.

History, like God, is watching what we do.

Thank you. Thank you, America, and God bless you all.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Phantasmagorical musings.

Your speech is laced with whispers of things we both wish you would say
Maybe what is now a dream will be reality one day

God, let me never forget that the pilgrimage to the place where we fulfill the ambition for which you have us in this fallen world is called life, and that this journey in and of itself is the reason we are here. I will not fulfill my purpose until the day you call me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Let me run the race each day stronger still until that moment comes.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Things you see at 10pm while driving.

So, I'm on the way back from Sundown in the City last night, and I'm stopped at a red light. La de da de da, singing with the radio. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, approximately eight young men run across the street in front of me. All of them were wearing nothing but boxer shorts and tennis shoes. Yea for the random moments in life that help you keep your sense of humor. :-)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

John 13.

I was reading John chapter 13 this morning, and a couple of things really stuck out to me. The first thing is a purely personal observation ~ consider this my theological disclaimer if this is not in fact what the text is saying. :-)

In the first part of this chapter, Jesus washes the disciples' feet. But in verse three, as he's preparing to do so, I saw something I hadn't noticed before. "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God." The very next verse, he gets up from the table and begins washing their feet.

Why does this seemingly unrelated verse directly precede him humbling himself as the lowest of servants and washing the feet of the men who followed him? It just struck me this morning. How can I humble myself, so that I don't need recognition and admiration from the world? Like Jesus, I must know where I come from, whose I am, and where I am going. My identity is in Christ. My sense of self-worth is found in him, not in those around me. And that is how I can humble myself with complete disregard to my social status or appearance in the eyes of others. I can be invisible to the world, knowing that Christ sees me.

Well, that was longer than I intended, so I guess I'll just stick to the one observation for today. It's enough for me to work on for the rest of my life, I think. :-) I hope each of you has a wonderful day.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Living Organized.

Well, it won't change your life. Or maybe it will.

But I enjoyed most of this book, simply because it told me why I - a person who gains naught but pure joy from buying file folders and color coding things - cannot seem to keep my house in a relaxing, clutter-free state. It gives you psychological reasons why you might have difficulty keeping your house clean, as well as practical tips for finally being motivated to get things done and give away the super cute skirt that hasn't fit since 7th grade. I even put a sweater that still fits but that I simply don't like into my give away box! This is ground breaking territory for me, people.

So, if you still have Christmas presents that haven't been put away or you can't find a dish only to realize it's been sitting in the dishwasher clean for more than two weeks, I would thoroughly recommend this book! :-) I got it at the $5 Christian bookstore in the mall. Don't even get me started. I could write a whole blog on that place alone! If you live in Knoxville, you must check it out!

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

30 Hour Famine.

29,000 children die every day from hunger.

852 million people around the world don't have enough to eat.
On February 23rd and 24th, we are joining together to do something about it.

This February, teens nationwide are participating in the 30 Hour Famine, forsaking food for 30 hours to get a taste of what the world's poorest children and families face everyday. Prior to the event weekend, teens raise funds by explaining that $30 – just $1 a day – can feed and care for a child for 30 days. This is the 16th Famine. The first 15 raised more than $80 million, representing hundreds of thousands of children who are alive today because of teens who went hungry and the people who sponsored them.

Would you consider sponsoring me or one of the teenagers in the Providence group as we fast together on the 23rd and 24th? If so, just leave me a comment or a message and I will get back to you with more information on how to donate.

Visit or to learn more.

Monday, February 5, 2007

My Biggest Fear.

I sit staring out the window
Longing for passion
Longing for the hand of God to pick me up and put me down
In a situation that is designed perfectly for me
A place where I will be challenged but loved
A place where I can love
Where my abilities will flourish from use
Where I will not be so crippled by my weaknesses
Yet here I sit
Allowing consistency to become my complacency.

Monday, January 15, 2007


One of the reasons that I love the new year is the chance to look back and evaluate. Another is the ability to look forward and make goals. One more is that the giant ball sparkles, which makes everyone happy. Even if you think it's stupid to have a giant Waterford crystal ball (what a rediculous waste of money!) fall from the sky and watch a really old man get a couple of seconds behind on the countdown (poor guy), you can't help but smile. Because it's sparkly. And it's New York City.

Anyway, my resolution last year was such a resounding success that I felt quite a bit of pressure to have a repeat occurrance this year. Last year, I resolved to make a new close friend. It was a prayer request, really, with the added resolve of "I'll do my part to make this happen." God gave me so many brand new incredible friendships that are more amazing than anything I could have asked or imagined (Ephesians 3:20-21). I am so amazingly blessed in the friends department. I really don't deserve these amazing people.

This year, I made two resolutions. The first one I have broken repeatedly thus far. It was not to hit the snooze button on my alarm in the mornings. I waste so much time doing that. It leaves my quiet times too short and makes me stressed before I even get to work. Grr. I'll try that one again tomorrow.

The second one is the real resolution. I have found myself getting comfortable in my life and my routine. I never want to be comfortable for the sake of comfort. I don't want to wake up one morning and realize that I have been making decisions by not making them, allowing life just to happen to me. I want to be proactive in seeking and following God's will for my life. I want every day to be lived on purpose, choosing to actively be a part of God's bigger picture, whether I understand it or not. Therefore, my resolution and prayer for 2007 is that God will show me some big decisions this year - ones that will impact the rest of my life and keep me on the path he has for me. If the goal God has given me is to end up working in an orphanage overseas, I need to find out what I should be doing now to prepare for the moment when God says that it's time for me to go. There are so many big decisions tied up in this, and I feel like I haven't made any sense. (If you're still reading, thanks!!!)

So, what resolutions and/or goals did you make for this year? Have you kept them so far?