Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Perspective on War

I have a lot to say on this topic but will keep this posting brief since I want to pictures to speak for themselves. A while back I came across a slideshow of picture of the devastation of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The pictures are outrageous and incredibly disturbing. It is hard for me to view these images and read the stories of the countless lives destroyed by this one action and feel it was worth it. Of course I was not alive at that time and others who were have very different thoughts on the decision to drop the bomb, but you can't look at these images and not be moved and ask why...

We live in a time where war is constant. My own country is fighting three significant wars at this time and don't look like stopping any time soon. I can't help but ask if there is any other way to solve problems. The crazy thing is that people say that peace will come when the war is over and those who we are fighting are out of power...

It doesn't make sense to fight and kill in order to create peace. Being peaceful creates peace. Direct action in non-violent ways creates peace. These images are why I pray for peace and hope no government chooses to destroy like this ever again.

For more info on the pictures visit the following websites:

International Center of Photography & The New York Times

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Whew! ... Lots new to report...

So, it has been, literally, forever since I last posted (ignore the irony)... A few things have changed:

  • I lost my job at the shelter and have been a landscaper/excavator in order to pay rent
  • I had a brand new laptop stolen from my house just after being shipped to me
  • My girlfriend and I have decided to move back to Portland to be closer to my family and for me to find a new job asap
  • So, hence, we are leaving LA, which is definitely my second home and a city I love dearly (great weather all the time, incredible diversity, fun eateries and neighborhoods I've found and grown to love)
All of this has been happening in the last couple of weeks and I'm still in recovery mode from it all, but plodding ahead and making key decisions for the future. If you are a praying-type, please pray for us as we figure all this out and for my job situation in Portland.

*More to come soon (I promise)...I have lots to say lately!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gotta Watch this Video!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why I love riding my bike

So, I am a bike junkie. I love riding my bike. I especially love the simplicity of riding a single speed road bike with only a front brake. I am very aware that one of the significant factors to why I love riding my bike is the fact that I live in sunny Southern California where the weather is significantly more pleasant than most other locations in the U.S. (including my native Oregon). One drawback of living here is the very "un-friendly toward bikers" culture here in LA. I couldn't even count the number of times I have been brushed by passing cars, honked at for riding on the road (many drivers don't understand that it is illegal for bikers to ride on the sidewalks), slammed through enormous potholes that slowly break down my wheels and joints, and directly hit by a non-observant driver (actually I can count that this only happened once - thank God!). So, not all is perfect in the happy biking world I live in.

I am in a position that I don't have to own a car because I choose to ride my bike and take public transportation. This is true even though I could cut my commute in half by driving and not have to endure the above-mentioned discomforts. I am a huge proponent for the investing in and using public transportation. There are many factors to this. I believe in better access and transportation for those who can't afford to own a car, I believe in lessening our negative impact on the environment by using forms of mass transportation and biking, I believe in the positive impact of commuting with the diverse group of people that ride public transportation, and, finally, I believe in the physical well-being that biking regularly brings to the individual.

Believe me, I'm not an anti-car person. I would really love to have a car for those longer trips, but I'm able to make due with what I have currently. I write this not to push my interest and passion on others, but to promote thought or conversation by those who dismiss other forms of transportation other than driving as ridiculous and impractical. I encourage others to use these forms of transportation if they are available instead of driving. It might be scary or uncomfortable at first, but believe me it gets better and you become very thankful for the availability. Keep this in mind the next time you travel in the city and encourage your kids and friends to try it out.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Looking Back One Year...

Lately, I have been reminiscing about the past few years. Maybe it has to do with my finishing up my Master's at Fuller, maybe it has to do with friends moving away, or maybe it has to do with me entering a new stage of life where school will never be a part of it again. Definitely, some of the reminiscing has been due to the anniversary of my jailing and deportation from the UK. If you're not familiar with that story, click here. The one year anniversary of that crazy and unbelievable experience was just a few weeks ago. It feel almost like a lifetime ago and at the same time, it almost feel like it was just a dream. I've had over a year now to process through this and try to understand what happened that day. Much of it I will probably never fully understand, but there are some things that have come out of it that I feel are invaluable times, experiences and relationships.

One very important thing I think about in relation to this experience is that I have been called by my God to live my life as a bridge between two cultures - Westerners and Muslims. How this connects is that many non-white, non-American, non-Western people experience a great deal of undeserved hardships when travelling abroad. In no way do I compare my experience in London with that of many people, but it is a rather unique experience for a white, U.S. passport holder to be jailed and deported (especially from a country like the UK). I hope that having experienced this will aid my work in bringing about transformation, learning and growth both for Muslims and for Westerners.

Secondly, in returning to LA after my day and a half in London, I decided to return to Fuller and take a full load of classes. One of the classes I took was called Spiritual Formation in College and Young Adult Settings. One of the reasons I took this class at this time was I knew it would open up a lot of time for discernment and seeking after the Lord for understanding. I thought that it would provide clarity for going through the experience in London, but instead it opened up my heart for some significant and needed healing over the loss of my mom years before. If you want, you can read the following three articles for more information on her passing (One, Two, and Three). I look back now and see how important and valuable this time was for me personally. Would I have had this if I had been in London? Also, I was able to write my final paper on something that did provide some aid in my processing through the experience in London. I did my research and wrote on the use of spiritual practices in times of trauma, which was very helpful in the end.

Finally, one relationship started out of this time that never would have started if I had of been in London for the expected two months. For those that know me will know that I am speaking of the relationship with my girlfriend, Amal. When I returned from my short stay in London, I moved back into the house I was living in in LA. Amal was living there at the time. Shortly after returning, Amal and I started hanging out more and more and getting to know each other. A few months later, we decided to start dating. Now, we are coming up quickly on being together a year. This (as anyone in love knows) has been the most amazing thing ever! - Excuse my mushy, ultra-sentimental talk here please ;) - I am truly blessed to be together with Amal and look forward to continuing travelling through life with her. 

Through all of this, I still have no idea why the immigration officer in London lied and actively worked to get me deported, but I echo Joseph in saying:

"Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good" (Genesis 50:20, NRSV).

p.s. here are a couple of pics of Amal and I from our June trip to Portland and my graduation from Fuller.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Book Reflection – Missions and Money

This book, written by Jonathan Bonk, offers a great perspective on the challenges related to money that come with missionaries from the West going to non-western contexts. I really appreciate Bonk’s perspective coming from a Mennonite background where there is a strong value on simplicity of life. When reading this book, I was reminded of a book I previously read called Cry of the Urban Poor by Viv Grigg. He is writing on the values of the organizations he started when he describes the value of inner simplicity. He writes:

Renouncing possessions is an outworking of an inner simplifying of our lives which leads to the openness, gentleness, spontaneity, and serenity that marked the Master. In renouncing possessions we seek to simplify our external lives in order to simplify more clearly our inner lives and focus on knowing our Lord.
Along with outward poverty, we desire an inner humility; along with servant works, we seek the spirit of a true servant. In caring little for this world where we are strangers and pilgrims, we set our hearts on that spiritual home where our treasure is being saved up, and on that glory which we shall share with our Lord, provided we suffer with him.
We encourage middle-class Christians to such simplicity of lifestyle. For some it means earning less, and using their time for the kingdom. For others it means to earn much, consume little, hoard nothing, give generously, and celebrate living. Such lifestyles are indefinitely varied. We refuse to judge others in such areas (Grigg 117).

To read my reflection on this book, look here and here.

Early on in the book, Bonk writes about the word “need.” In our society, this word has really lost its definition. What we “need” ends up usually being what we “want.” Bonk describes that even western missionaries in non-western contexts do this. He speaks about the “need” for the latest technology in the mission field to better the work or research (27-29). I think this is very connected to our instant gratification society where we see something we want and just get it. Often if it is not obtained right away, we are unhappy. I am convicted even as I write this, because I’m writing this on my laptop, I have an ipod, a digital camera, plenty of clothes, etc. At the same time, I usually try to only purchase what is necessary and I wait to try to prevent impulse purchasing.

Another word that Bonk mentions is “progress.” He writes of historical missionary movements among the non-west were considered an exercise to take the “uncivilized” and make them “civilized.” This process of civilization was very connected to the notion of social and economic progress (20-22). The end goal was affluence for these uncivilized people; i.e. if these people were able to progress and becoming affluent, their problems would be solved. The problem is that this surfaces in different ways even today. It is not some distant problem from eras ago. What is seen now is western missionaries coming into a poor area and assuming that they really know what these people need and since they aren’t receiving it now, we must provide it for them or teach them that they need it and must get it themselves. For centuries and millennia many societies worked very well without our influence, so why do we assume that these people really need our suggestions and help.

An important section of the book includes the theological and ethical backing to this claim of western affluence being detrimental to non-western missions. Bonk asks, “How can the economically secure and lavishly materially accoutered missionary teach the poor – with any degree of credibility – about simplicity, generosity, contentment, or the costly sacrifice entailed in all genuine discipleship?” (79). Later, Bonk asks if the sin of greed is less deadly for missionaries than it is for the people they are ministering to? Of course not. Bonk describes greed as “the desire for more than enough in a social context in which some have less than enough” (80). With this being said, can any of us in North American say we are not greedy? Our consumerist and materialistic culture pushes us to buy and buy more, but we need to fight this urge and live a simpler life where we are more giving and compassionate to our neighbors in need.

I will end this reflection with the following quote that gives great insight to this problem. Bonk shares of how the Incarnation of our Lord speaks to this issue, He writes,

At the very least, the Incarnation means giving up the power, privilege, and social position which are our natural due. Christ’s mission in Christ’s way must always begin, proceed, and end with the great renunciation. And this sacrifice is made not merely with reference to “what could have been” back home, but by the standards of the people among whom the missionary is called to incarnate the gospel. This does not leave much room for the power-generating, status-inflating, career-building, self-protecting affluence to which emissaries of the Western churches have become accustomed (117).

…ahhhh… last reflection for Fuller… J

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pretty Much Sums it up...
I really appreciate this graph from The Atlantic. I saw this today and thought it connects well with a previous posting I wrote a few weeks back.
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