Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Catonsville 9 and...

Whatever your politics, this documentary is an interesting review of protests during the Vietnam War era.

I have questions about such protest tactics (damaging property) being used today for two reasons:

  1. No one pays attention. I strongly believe the approach needed today is education. I do not think you educate by shocking people. Their natural response is to see you as some kind of quack.
  2. Non-violence seems to question 'destruction' of any kind. That said, the Catonsville 9 (which took place at my Draft Board!) made a difference.

Check it out:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Haiti - 'send the money you paid for your ticket to supplement a family

Sister Mary Finnick, the director of Matthew 25 House in Port auPrince is critical of the stalled recovery efforts in Haiti.

"Wheneverybody comes and has a solution for Haiti it only creates aproblem," Sister Mary says. "A lot of people are coming from theUnited States, but they are doing the work the Haitian people should be doing. I would say, 'send the money you paid for your ticket to supplement a family so that the members could do the work that you were going to do when you were here.'"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spain vs. Netherlands

In case you missed seeing the game (as I did driving across Ohio - though I did get to see some at a truck stop! And heard goal on radio. 1st 1/2 I heard the game in Spanish - hmm - I need to get back to my Spanish study!)

You might enjoy this.

Brick-by-brick: Spain v Holland
Brick-by-brick fussball: The 2010 World Cup final: Holland 0-1 Spain
A recreation of the 2010 World Cup final, in which Spain kept all their pieces together despite dirty play from the Dutch

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Radical Emptiness - Theology

We are like a donut! The hole in the donut is radial emptiness aching to be filled.

We get off track and try to fill it up with $, prestige, degrees, Corvettes, sports; yet the emptiness endures. (This mystery for example is at the heart addiction.)

So in making peace with this emptiness, we find true happiness. Only God can fill it.

We are made, hot wired for God. Only God can fill this hunger.

Jesus is a persistent yes before God, a radical dependence on God. He dared to call him Abba.

We need to become like him. In this sense Jesus is the Son of God. He has become the revelation of God for us, who's given himself up for us.

Substitution theory: For centuries, one theory about Jesus has been taught as if it is the only theory and the only explanation based on faith. (This is false.) Substitution or atonement simply states that Jesus was sent by the father to ransom us back. That is, Adam's sin was so great (a human offense against the divine) that only a divine human could repair the damage. (Makes the father look like a sadist.)

Jesus gave himself for us not as a ransome sacrifice but as one who followed his dream all the way to the Cross. He spoke truth and could not, would not recant to save his own life. The powers of state and synagogue found his word threatening to their power & way life, so they got rid of him.

Jesus gave himself for us in that he believed in justice, peace, equality, and compassion. He was willing to die for that. In this he showed us the Father. This is what we are to live in our daily lives.

Let us open our eyes and see the reign of God in our everyday lives & like Jesus act in accord with the compassion and love of God.

A Theological Reflection - The Word

If you believe in the word of God, you don't fail.

You dance a little, cry a little, sing a new song, share a word, hug a friend, dream at night, break bread, take new wine, careful to throw out the wine skins and you don't fail.

You may have only five loaves and a few fish and it seems little when there is so much to be done. You may have only six jars of water, and no one is very happy with you and with that. you may have only a mustard seed or a manager. The only way out may be Egypt.

You may have only three years to do it all in. You might not even have a boat of your won. you may have only a few stories--no title, no degree, no temple to back you up or support you. You may have only the road to Jerusalem and it goes perilously through Samaria.

You may have only bread and a cup of wine on the night before it's all over. You may have only a few friends and they are asleep.

You may not have the rights words to get yourself off the charge. And so, you forgive them for not knowing what else to do to you. You may not even have a father in the darkness of Calvary and wish your mother were not there. You may have only one apostle left at the cross and hardly any disciples. Sometimes all you have are your wounds and the last shred of hope. But if the word of God is in you, you win. Not for your sake alone but for everyone. If the word of God is in us, nothing is lost, not even a coin, certainly not a sheep that wants to be rescued or a minister who seeks to be a shepherd. Nothing is lost.

Not even Peter who denies Christ or the Pharisee who comes to him only at night. No one is lost. Once the Church had only the word of God, nothing else, and it proclaimed its message without power or legal sanction in Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. Amazingly, it prevailed with the word of God alone. This is not rhetoric---it is history.

We have the word of God, you and I.

Why do we keep thinking we need anything else?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

He can approach the gate but not go no further.

Standing in the modern check-in hall at Heathrow Terminal 5, we hugged and said our good byes. I could not budge as I watched my African friend retrace our steps on his way back to London and to the daily limbo he and so many others live.

My heart was filled with sadness at the complete insanity of governments. There I stood holding a page with my picture on it which allowed me to go anywhere. Why me? What had I or any of my countrymen done to deserve such freedom while this good man had experienced difficulties, loss and sadness beyond imagination?

Fair. Oh such a ready word in 1st world countries - we have no clue.

He insists on accompanying me to the airport each time I leave England - enduring a tube ride that can feel endless. I appreciate his assistance in getting awkward and heavy bags to the airport. Yet each time I struggle wondering what he must be feeling.

I do not ask of course fearing it would make reality's sting all the more real.

He can approach the gate but not go no further. I am 65; he 29. Where is the sense and fairness of it all? I have been blessed with a good life. He waits for his to begin. England is by far is one of the best countries in Europe to escape to. Should he be lucky, and that is very questionable, he will have to wait a mere 14 years or his life to begin.

This thoroughly good young man possessing a quick mind, a kind heart and incredible skills wakes up each morning to what? Yes he is much better off in England away from torture & prison. At home he was the wrong kind of Christian. But he cannot work or go to school legally. How do you live then, waiting for 14 years? What happens to your mind and spirit?

Initially in England his body racked with tuberculosis because like so many others he was forced to live on the streets, he knew no one. How is it possible that this young man retains such a gentle spirit, a ready wit, and consideration rarely witnessed on the streets of our modern world?

I have come to love this young man who has endured so much and now exists in a world consumed with 'ego,' power and puffery. He is like so many from Africa, the Middle East or Asia who escape tyranny, only to languish while we in the "first world" sort out our convenience.

When I wonder will we awake from our self-absorbed world and open our eyes much less our hearts?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Looking for snakes in Clackamas Park with Caleb

Yep, snakes! Actually, mercifully they're not easy to find & mainly not poisonous in these parts. Caleb, 5 years & 8 months, led the way with pillow case in hand. I offered to take him to the zoo, but he had more important things to do, hunt snakes. So off we went.

We covered every inch and every hole in each tree seeking the critters. Are snakes critters? At 5, Caleb's language skills are excellent. I was continually amazed as he made comments like:

  • as we approach
  • that's a conifer tree
  • keep your eyes straight ahead
  • (to offers of assistance by me, he'd reply confidently) "No, thank you."

There is a large fenced off dog area. At one end, there is a fire hydrant. Caleb asked me: "Do you know what that's for?" Answer: "So dogs can pee!"

Throughout our sojourn, Caleb would eye an item of interest and speed off like a sprinter. I myself took advantage of my long stride. He was fully in investigative mode by the time I caught up!

After an hour of running commentary, inspecting new found paths, several side trips to the swings, we headed for home. "Ok, I'm ready to go home." A young man who knows his own mind!

What a delightful, energetic and happy young man. It is easy to see the beauty of life, thedivine, in nature and our young. Now the challenge is to keep up the zest and joy of mystery of life.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Toivo Saukko - a good man dies 7/2/10

Laura's grandfather & my former father-in-law passed away yesterday morning at age 91 while in hospice care at his daughter's, Dot, in Ocean Pines, Md.

Toivo was a simple man, was devoted to his wife and family. Laura took him shopping, took him to doctor's appointment & kept him up to date with his meds for the past 7 years. I recall a delightful image of him in his tuxedo dancing with Laura at her wedding in May 2009.

All of us convened for Christmas dinner each year. It was a treat finding him a Grisham novel. A post card I sent him from Oxford, England arrived on July 1st.

May he rest in peace. we will miss him.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Netherlands 2 Brazil 1

Came across the street to the cafe for my morning coffee. There was barely a seat available as all were watching the Ned vs Brazil game. I caught the last 20 minutes. The international nature of the game is great fun. Plus for me there is a lot of action.

Rain abounds here in Portland so a trip to the zoo with Caleb is not in the offing. Perhaps a trip to the children's Museum. Just need a break in the rain as I am unprepared!

Sunday it's off to Su Casa Catholic Worker in Chicago. I want to check it out for possible future volunteering with the hispanic population. It also affords me the opportunity to sat there while attending my annual Adult Spiritual Renewal Classes at LUC by the lake.


Major Spirituality Issues of our Time: authenticity, commitment, community and hope. Taught by Anthony Padavano one of my all time favorites. A gentle soul, a brilliant mind and fine sense of humor needed when dealing with the institutional church.

Jesus the Kingdom of God with John Dominic Crossan This is quite an opportunity as Crossan is one of the most well known theologians of the Jesus Seminar. Cutting edge theology - what the world needs.

Paul's Letters to Corinth Sadly the world renown scripture school who lives in Jerusalem (Jerome Murphy-O'Connor) is ill. A substitute will teach the class.

Then it's home for a month!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Martin from Hungary at the bus stop in Portland

Looking at my map, a man asked me where I wanted to go. This started an interesting conversation. Martin came from Hungary many years ago. We talked about both Hungary and the U.S. He thinks our current President is excellent, doing his best no matter the flack.

I told him about the unpleasant experience at the Amnesty International event in London. He said yes there was still a lot of anti-semitism in Europe. For him Hungary was in the fore front of it before Hitler came along. To him there are three kinds:

  • an old fashioned version - looking down on Jews an inferior
  • a newer version which is more anti-Israel
  • a version that he feels is present in a country like France, you dress differently, therefore...

We both agreed that many of Israel's actions are reprehensible. But it is not just Israel. Hamas, Arab states are just as guilty. It seems that once people get into power, it changes them drastically. (Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.)

Arriving at my stop, wee bid farewell but not before Martin made sure I knew how to get from the garden to Powell's Book Store. As I walked along, I dropped my book. immediately a man went to pick it up.

Interesting conversation, courtesy abounding, quite an afternoon in Portland!

An Afternoon at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland

Many of you will recall that Todd & Sarah's youngest son has Hurler's Syndrome. Arriving in Portland by train from Seattle, I went to the children's hospital. Ethan was receiving an infusion, his 2nd that day.

Walking into a children's ward, memories flooding back to 33 years ago, I was struck with how upbeat people were. Ethan was busily playing while his dad dutifully rolled the IV pole after him.

We were there until 6:30 p.m. Todd has been there many more hours. Still he maintained a calm and attentive demeanor with his active almost 2 year old.

Coming from the U.K, where I witnessed so much difficulty for those seeking asylum, I was struck again by how easy most of us have it. A child about 8, head completely shaven, walked quietly with his mother. A teen rolling himself about in a wheelchair. There is so much suffering.

Around 6:30 Sarah arrived with Caleb, Ethan's older almost 6 brother. Full of energy and waiting to be held high, he greeted me.

We retired to the cafeteria. I was touched by how easily Ethan & Cal played. Children teach us how to live. It is a difficult and long road ahead of Ethan and his family. He is fortunate to have two loving parents. It is impressive to see Todd & Sarah together, clearly in love and managing a difficult & heartbreaking situation.

Please keep them in your prayers & good thoughts. The immediate question is will the transplant take sucessfully.


Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.