Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rwanda's grim anniversary and the power of reconciliation

Author's note: If you're reading this via email, you'll need to click through to the actual post to see the videos, which I highly recommend watching.

This month marked the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the horrific genocide in Rwanda, which would last for more than three months and claim as many as 800,000 lives in the small East African country. World Vision, the Christian humanitarian organization whose troubles I wrote about recently on this blog, began its work in Rwanda as the bloodshed was unfolding.

John Schenk, a photojournalist and friend of mine who still works for the organization, arrived there with a video crew a few weeks after the mass murders began. Their goal was to help alert the outside world to the atrocities.

Schenk's narrative of what he witnessed is absolutely heartrending — particularly his story of coming across a church that he could "smell before he saw." A week or so prior, a group of men, women, and children had taken refuge there, thinking that a church was the one place they'd be safe from the violence that was tearing their country apart. Instead, more than 500 people were massacred inside this holy place, their bodies left to rot. Watch Schenk's full account of the experience in the video above. It's powerful.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Iona: A mecca for Celtic spirituality

Iona: A beautiful, mystical, remote setting.
Iona: A beautiful, mystical, remote setting.
This coming Thursday, I'll be headed from Seattle to Glasgow by way of London. My final destination: The Isle of Iona off the west coast of Scotland, where I'll be joining my father and peers in my graduate program for a pilgrimage on Celtic spirituality.

Iona is a remote, rugged place that requires a three-hour train ride, a bus shuttle, and two ferries to reach. Part of an archipelago called the Hebrides, which lines the Atlantic coast of mainland Scotland, Iona bears special significance for the Celtic tradition of Christianity.

I knew very little about this tradition prior to a course I took last fall from Dr. Roy Barsness, the professor from the Seattle School who is leading the pilgrimage along with John Philip Newell, an author, minister, scholar, and leading voice on Celtic spirituality. This discipline emphasizes the presence of God at the center of life — that is, the sacredness of the earth and the reflection of the divine in human beings. Everything that can be seen, according to Celtic Christianity, springs forth and is symbolic of the Unseen Who created it.

That means that the sacred can be found in the natural — in the land, the air, and the water, and among plants, trees, animals, and people. It means that the image of God can be seen in the face of a newborn baby. And it means that the ordinary is symbolic of the divine. It does not mean that the earth should be deified, but rather honored and cared for as a product of the Artist Whose handiwork it represents.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I think I'm becoming a hophead

I think I'm becoming a hophead

When life leaves me feeling disappointed or disillusioned by the state of this broken world — as illustrated by my last couple blog posts — I find myself needing to seek refuge in the simple things that remain fundamentally beautiful and comforting. Like the smell of the Pacific Northwest in spring. Or stories about redemption. Or authentic conversation with friends.

Or beer.

This weekend's selection was from Bale Breaker Brewing Company, a new family-owned enterprise situated, quite literally, in the hop fields of central Washington near Yakima. The hops they use are sourced directly from the plots of land that surround the brewery. If you try the Top Cutter IPA, you'll taste how the freshness of that ingredient truly defines the beer. This brew packs quite a punch with its hoppy bouquet — but if, like me, you've developed a serious soft spot for that attribute, you're bound to appreciate what it offers.

Plus, it comes in a can. I now love canned beer. I never thought I'd say that. But canned beer no longer belongs exclusively to the likes of Budweiser. Hallelujah.

Try it on a warm, sunny spring day while sitting outside at a beer bar near the water. For a moment, however fleeting, you'll be freed of whatever it is that burdens you.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Democracy sold to the highest bidder

Democracy sold to the highest bidder

This week's Supreme Court ruling on McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission is devastating and disgraceful. As the dissenting opinion put it, "If the court in Citizens United opened a door, today's decision may well open a floodgate."

Let me take that a giant leap further: "May well" is a laughable understatement. "Absolutely will" is more like it. Do you think American democracy is headed toward oligarchy? Too late. We're already there. We were a long time ago. If you don't think so, you're not paying a lick of attention.

There are ways to reverse this, of course, and none of them will happen as long as the current trend continues. Once money is infused into the political process on this level, trying to stop it is like trying to patch the hull of the Titanic with Saran™ Wrap. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't put a laser focus on these objectives:

Friday, March 28, 2014

When rules and sanctimony are more important than people

World Vision's U.S. headquarters in Washington state.
World Vision's U.S. headquarters in Washington state.
I didn't want to write this post, but it needed to be written. It pertains to an organization near and dear to my heart.

Before I begin any discussion about what has happened, I need to start this by talking about what World Vision does, lest anyone is unfamiliar.

World Vision is an organization that provides food and agricultural support to malnourished children and impoverished communities. It installs access to clean water, hygiene, and sanitation in areas where people would otherwise suffer from dysentery and other waterborne diseases. It offers medical care and builds clinics in regions where infants might otherwise die of preventable illness. It builds schools and helps pay for education for children who might otherwise wander the streets alone. It empowers communities with microloans and other economic development. It rescues boys and girls from abuse, neglect, forced labor, conscription, and the sex trade, and it helps rehabilitate those who have faced the worst kind of trauma and evil. It lobbies lawmakers to pass policies that help the poor, both here in the United States and abroad — no easy task in the current political environment.

World Vision does all of these things — and much, much more — in nearly 100 countries around the world. It does so in the name of Jesus Christ, whose life and ministry made clear to his followers that they must do nothing less.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

About those Canadians and their second-rate health care…


You should stop what you're doing right now and watch all seven minutes of this congressional testimony, made available by the office of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. That's right — he's the traitorous, communist pig who wants to drown our flag in maple syrup and trample on our liberty with his vision of socialized medicine.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How does an airplane just disappear?

How does an airplane just disappear?
This story is just creepy, if you ask me.

As I write this, the latest development on the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — which apparently just vanished in the sky last Saturday over the Gulf of Thailand or the South China Sea — is that a search of an area where Chinese satellite indicated the possible presence of floating debris has thus far turned up nothing.

And the most disquieting suggestion thus far? The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the plane may have been "airborne long after radar disappearance," according to U.S. investigators.

Not only that, but this, too: "U.S. counterterrorism officials are pursuing the possibility that a pilot or someone else on board the plane may have diverted it toward an undisclosed location after intentionally turning off the jetliner's transponders to avoid radar detection, according to one person tracking the probe."

What the hell is going on here?