the countdown is on …

November 10, 2008

In less than three days, I’ll be boarding a plane for Nairobi, Kenya.  My friend/colleague, Bill Gorman, is joining me for the big adventure!  Together, we’ll be exploring the prospect of more long-term partnership (what it might look like for folks from my community here in KC to engage in collaborative-relationship with our Kenyan brothers & sisters).

One of the most exciting things about my travel is a reunion of sorts with one of my grad-school classmates & his family: Luke & Lillian Jaoko.  We became close friends during my years in Chicago.

Here’s Luke with his youngest, Sheenah (born during our last year of seminary).  My roommate & I broke with all cultural-sensitivity and threw the Jaoko’s one big-phat-baby-shower.  (Complete with the competitive relay: “cell-phone-on-your-ear, baby-on-your hip, laundry-basket-in-your-hand … hanging-clothes-on-the-line.”  My team kicked-butt.)  But I digress …memory-card-1-pictures-045

Luke & Lillian: two of the most heroic people I will ever meet.  I’m incredibly honored to know them; ecstatic about our reunion.

Sobered by the many other heroes I will be meeting in the coming weeks.  (I’m dousing myself in Ephesians 4 these days; praying some of it will somehow get down deep inside me.)  Your prayers for God’s gracious work in and through me are coveted …


Nathan was found abandoned outside of a mudpit-latrene last year in Rwanda.  After a bit of time in the hospital & police custody, Nathan was given into the safe-keeping of New Hope Homes (a home for abandoned children in Rwanda).  This is where Nathan will stay until Anthony & Leslie bring him home later this fall.

Anthony & Leslie shared this brief story with our faith-community earlier today.  It was so honest & heartfelt.  (There wasn’t a dry-eye in the room.)  My favorite line came from Leslie who said something like, “we have had fears about this: can we love Nathan like we love our other three girls?  can we handle another child under 4 years of age?  can we thrive as a bi-racial family?  how will I do Nathan’s hair?  But we have chosen to believe that these concerns pale in comparison to the great gift God is giving to Nathan & our family in bringing us together [Jt’s paraphrase].”

I’m so grateful God has given to our congregation a life-sized illustration of what it might mean to care for the least of these …

It was an amazing day.  (Lord, may I manifest such spunk & sacrificial service at 78!)

Over lunch, John introduced me to an old Chinese poem–one of his favorites.  (I loved it too.)

Go to the people
Live among them, Learn from them, Love them
Start with what you know, build on what they have:
But the best leaders, when their task is done
The people will remark, “We have done it ourselves.”

freedom school

July 25, 2008

It’s one thing to celebrate accomplishment.  It’s another (glorious) thing to celebrate hard-won accomplishment.  Tonite — attending “Freedom School Graduation” at CFBC — I watched and celebrated with about a hundred students (elementary-high school) basking in such glorious accomplishment.

I don’t know many stories from the lives of these specific students (though I teach Sunday school to a few of them once a month so have a couple stashed away!), but statistics from the urban core where they live are enough to prompt my imagination and (then) my appreciation for what this summer school program means to them. Tonite’s graduation included performances in song & dance … recitation of original poetry & drama.  It was good.  It was messy.  It was genuinely funny.  Utterly endearing.

Watching the grand finale from the back of a full house, I saw 100+ beautiful, shining students singing and swaying to the tune of hope.  I cried.

Gets me every time: the story of redemption — success — smack in the midst of life’s ugliness.  And I am compelled to live deeper or more … or somehow more truly.  Here’s to beating the odds … (and so, shaping my world).

Two classier individuals there could not be.  (And to think they went and married one another?!  Uh-oh!)  No, seriously, my heart has been celebrating all nite long … gladdened that God has called these two to image His love and life to our watching world.

Honored to be a witness (and so thankful Kurt took that phone call … even during 24).

This was the headline (or something like it) that came to mind as I took part in a classroom exercise yesterday–charting spaces in my life/relationships as either “public, social, personal, or intimate.”  (Categories derived from Joseph Myers helpful book, The Search to Belong.)

In spite of my own self-conscience commentary along the way, it was a great exercise … and gave me permission to think about cultivating spaces for a wide array of contexts and friendships.  (A luxury that–dare I say?–few Christians seem willing to allow for.  Though I’ve long held that following Jesus should not have to involve abandoning normalcy in all social relations.)  But now I rant.

The point is: great exercise.  Worth my time (maybe yours?) and probably even deserving a bit more consideration in the days ahead.  The same may be said for a few other elements of Allelon’s Summer Institute, a five-day course I completed today.  (Yes, I said five days.  Talk about some serious brain-drain … even after allowing myself a game of hookie.  How did I ever swing grad-school?!)

I’m looking forward to more time to process in the days ahead–maybe even a corollary blog-post or two.


May 28, 2008

I’ve been away from the blog-o-sphere for a couple of days.  Internet trouble on Monday, and heavy eyelids last nite … (I was snoozing by 9 p.m.)!  Alas, I’ve returned to the land of the living (& typing) to drop a quick update.

Even in my absence on-line, God’s been showing Himself strong & fully present with me.  (Something I’ve been needing desperately as of late, amidst my own small season of disorientation.)

After some tearful, earnest prayers last weekend, I felt that God reached out to me today through Letitia Washington (the woman we’re building our Habitat home for this year).  Letitia called out of the blue and left a message saying she had no agenda; just hadn’t talked to me for awhile and felt she should call.  I — in a rare moment of reaching out beyond expectations — decided to call back.

It was an awesome conversation.  Turns out, Letitia and I have some important things common these days (as we both navigate through the acquisition of a new home).  The best moment was when Letitia said to herself (or so she thought), “you know, God will never leave you or forsake you.”  This, after my pestering-prayer of the weekend had been “God, are you with me here?” (emphasis on each syllable, please).

It’s amazing how God’s Word — enlivened by God’s Spirit … enfleshed by God’s people — does, in fact, change the day.  I’m still reeling.  (And still quite disoriented, I suppose — but that’s for another post.)

Sometimes — more days than not, it seems — I just can’t believe God is interacting with me in such real and invasive ways.  You’d think I’d get used to it after 20+ years.  I find the converse is true; I am more surprised each day by the nearness of Christ.  Amen.  (May it be.)