Change: True Tales of Transformation on October 13th

We hit bottom, find inspiration, fall in love, lose a job, get hurt, get healed, and somehow our lives move in a new direction.  On Thursday, October 13th The Hearth presents “Change: True Tales of Transformation.”  Storytellers include Catherine Larkin, Gregory Whitcomb, Selene Aitken, Randy Ellison, Mercedes Urive, and Louise M. Pare.  All proceeds from the event will go to the Maslow Project, a resource center for homeless youth in the the Rogue Valley.  The event takes place at the UCC church at 717 Siskiyou blvd from 7 to 9pm.  Cost is $5. Mark Yaconelli will host the evening with music by Duane Whitcomb, Wendi Stanek, and special guests. Refreshments will be available.  Arrive early, seating can be limited.  For more information go to The Hearth: Reals Stories by Regular Folks.

The Ministry of Grief

A couple of times a year I write an article for Youthwork Magazine out of London.  The articles are only available in print.  Just sent in an article entitled the Ministry of Grief as a response to the London riots.  Here’s one of the opening paragraphs:

All the destructive practices of the western world can be traced to a desire to distract ourselves from grief (what we’re missing, what we’ve lost).  Distracted from the reality of suffering, the heart hardens and we lose our capacity for compassion.  We become alienated from one another, alienated from ourselves, alienated from God. “Loss is the great teacher,” Elizabeth Kubler Ross once wrote.  Without a willingness to face loss, we learn nothing.  We spin in circles.  We hide from one another.  We repeat our mistakes.  We become numb.  We lose joy.  

Silence, a Break, and Friendship: The Conditions for Compassion

I spent last weekend leading a retreat for Lakeshore Baptist Church out of Oakland, California. The event was held deep in the redwoods just inland from Half Moon Bay on the California coast.  Like the city of Oakland itself, Lakeshore is a beautifully diverse church and the age of participants were everywhere from fourteen to seventy-eight.   The retreat theme was: “Doing Good: Church, Neighbor, Community.”  In the sessions I led I tried to explore the connection between our own need and the needs of others, focusing particularly on how our own personal suffering, if we’re willing to face it and hold it, can become a source of compassion for others.  I relied on two Samaritan stories (the woman at the well, and the good Samaritan) and a quote from Thornton Wilder: “Without your wounds where would your power be?”

On the last night of the retreat we engaged in a prayer exercise I learned from my friend Frank Rogers and had the group recall a moment in their lives where they experienced unconditional love.  The group shared these experiences and we explored what it’s like to receive love as well as the disposition of those who helped us feel loved.  I then asked the group, “What do you need in order to be a compassionate person in the world?”  There were many ideas and responses but after awhile I noticed the adults had taken over the conversation so I said, “I have a question for the young people among us.  Soon you will be part of the adult world.  You’ll have jobs, marriages, families.  As you observe the adult world–the world of your parents, your teachers, coaches, neighbors, people you work with…what do you feel that adults need in order to be more compassionate?” Read More

The Hypocrisy that Kills Young Souls: The Spiritual Deformation of Malia and Sasha Obama

Because Friends believe that faith requires action in the world, the schools emphasize the development of a caring community, peaceful resolution of conflict, and service to others, especially those less fortunate. Friends have a long tradition of putting love into action, and the Quaker testimonies of equality, community, harmony, and simplicity are reflected in the life of the school. Students grow into compassionate and responsible adults who recognize their interconnectedness with the larger human family.

–“What Does a Friends School Have to Offer?” Friends Council on Education, Sidwell Friends School Website

“We found the dead bodies. Some of the dead bodies were really badly chopped up by the rockets…The head of a child was missing. Others were missing limbs.  We tried to find the body pieces and put them together. As it was getting late, we brought down the bodies in a rope bed. We buried them in the village’s cemetery.  The children were all from poor families.”

— Ashabuddin, a shopkeeper from Manogai, a nearby village, whose nephew Khalid was among nine boys, ages 7 to 14, killed while collecting firewoood by Nato helicopter gunners. New York Times, March 2, 2011

Kids are returning to school and President Obama’s daughters Malia and Sasha, like the children of many of the political elite in Washington DC, will soon begin classes at Sidwell Friends.  Sidwell is a Quaker school self described as an educational community inspired by the values of the Religious Society of Friends and guided by the Quaker belief in “that of God” in each person.  According to Irene McHenry, the Executive Director of the Friends Council on Education, the Obamas chose Sidwell school because “students learn that all of life is sacred, learn to resolve conflict non-violently through thoughtful listening and active engagement with different perspectives…”

What is it like to be raised with a Christian commitment to non-violence, a commitment to peaceful conflict resolution, a belief that every human being is sacred, while knowing that your parents, your government, your country is committed to violent intervention in 60 percent of the world’s countries?  What kind of confusion is created in a young person who is told to admire and emulate Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Ghandi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and other spiritual activists committed to non-violence when you know that in the real world problems are solved by bombs, by guns, by assassination, by secret acts of violence and torture?

How could any young person trust Christianity as a viable way of life when it is so blatantly and obviously ignored by the commitments and actions of adults?  How do our children integrate the knowledge that our country (whose leaders proclaim their commitment to Jesus, see here and here) is responsible for thousands and thousands of innocent deaths?  How do Malia and Sasha and all the other children of powerful political leaders reconcile the knowledge that their parents are committed to violence as a way of solving problems?   What damage is done to the souls of Malia and Sasha and all the other young people formed by Christian values when they see the images of dead Afghan children killed by Christian soldiers with the support of Christian political leaders and a country that claims to follow Jesus?

Read More

Take a Walk: Marking 9/11

My old friend Bart Campolo is now the outreach director at Abraham Path a simple, ground-breaking project that seeks to build peace through pilgrimage. Each year Abraham Path brings together people from around the world to walk the path of Abraham/Ibrahim in order to create friendships between people of differing faiths and cultures.

Bart is now using the skills he’s developed as an activist in Christian urban ministry to help organize walks across the United States to commemorate the ten year anniversary of 9/11.  The purpose of the walks are described as follows:

Honor the countless victims of 9/11 and its aftermath with a simple act of hope and courage: Walk and talk kindly with neighbors and strangers, in celebration of our common humanity and in defiance of fear, misunderstanding and hatred.Wouldn’t it be great if 9/11 became a day to reach over boundaries to connect with ‘the other’, the way Martin Luther King Day has become a day for community service?  It only takes a few people from one group or congregation to join a few from another to create a meaningful 9/11 Walk. 

After ten years of fear, war, and religious divisiveness, isn’t it time Christians began committing themselves to the work of healing and reconciliation?  Maybe this is one way to start. Read this endorsement by David Woolley, executive director of the 911 Project:

This September 11th will be the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. That tragic event launched the United States into a new era of wars in Islamic lands abroad, and fear, hatred, and oppression of Muslims here in America. The tenth anniversary will no doubt be the occasion for heavy media attention and an intense flurry of memorials, speeches, editorials, and demonstrations. The effect could be one of fanning the flames of prejudice and distrust. Or, it could be a day of honest dialog, mutual forgiveness, and reconciliation.

What kind of day would YOU like it to be?

Although the primary walk will be held in New York City, Abraham Path has set up a website listing walks across the United States. You can find a walk near you as well as details on organizing your own walk at