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I was hanging out with my friend Daniel and we had just eaten at Rasta Pasta (the tastiest Jamaican-inspired pasta I’ve ever had). Daniel had to cross the street to plug a quarter in the parking meter in front of his car. I was waiting on the other side of the street, when I noticed this guy crossing the street and shouting at me.
“Hey! Hey, man!”
“I need a harmonica, man!”
I’ve never had someone approach me asking for a harmonica. I was intrigued.
I shook his hand, “What’s your name, man?”
We went into a nearby toy store and bought a red harmonica (in the key of C) for the man named Donnie that we met on the street. Donnie was super pumped.
“Look at this colour! I didn’t even look at it before we got it! Look- it’s like a brand new coat!”
He was stompin’ and riffing on that harp. His passion is grin-inducing. He stops to breathe…
“I’m not Loony Toons. That’s not Loony Toons. That’s called improvisation. It takes a real musician to improvise.”
He had me film this bright, shiny, red Volkswagen Karmann Ghia (that matched his harmonica) with his little camera while he played some more. We were both wearing denim shirts. That made us friends.
He was about to get a picture of us together but then said,
“I don’t want to be filmed, you don’t want to be filmed. LET THEM WONDER! Let the people wonder who the artist is! Let them wonder who the musician is. Let them fill it in with the imaginations in their minds!”
It was about time for us to go.
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A lot of people seem to think I have direction- that I have it figured out. I just want to be honest with you guys. Every second of every day, I question whether or not I’m doing the right thing. Whether or not I’m where I’m supposed to be; being who I’m supposed to be. Every decision. I’m assuming I’m not the only one out there who’s like this. Feeling like I’m doing the wrong thing when it should feel right. For those of you who feel this.. I’m with you. I feel like I KNOW it’s worth it. But sometimes I don’t believe it. It’s not even that I feel broken, necessarily… but just that I feel bent. Sort of crooked and cockeyed. I know that the truth will set me free and I know what I believe and where I stand. It’s just that sometimes, my own feet betray me. Is this what humanity is/feels like? Uncertainty? Question marks????? haha… Faith is tricky. But friend, I believe in you. I really do. And it is my belief in my fellow humans, and my overarching belief in a God that is love, that keeps me going. Even if I have to limp.
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“If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” William Wilberforce
August 1 commemorates the end of slavery in the United Kingdom. This concerted effort required tireless work from politicians, clergy, poets, captains of industry and every day citizens. Today the fight continues. We need just as diverse of a coalition to bring an end to the sale of humans once and for all.
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I’m updating some content from my first book, Be the Change. In doing so, I’ve thumbed through all three books and see that many of the people I’ve written about are women – our contemporaries and women from history who have made a significant difference in the world. This month is Women’s History Month and I’ll be posting a few stories of some of the women who have inspired me.
One of those women is Amy Carmichael. She grew up in Ireland in the late 1800s. As a little girl Amy desperately wanted blue eyes, but her eyes were brown. Her mother had taught Amy that if she prayed, God would answer. So one night, before bed, Amy prayed that God would give her eyes of “smiling Irish blue.” The next morning, she hopped out of bed and ran to the mirror, but was heartbroken to see that her eyes were still brown. Her mother heard her crying, and explained that God always answers prayer, but sometimes the answer is “no.” In the years that followed, Amy would learn a great deal about the power of taking even small concerns to God.
In Bangalore, India, Amy learned that many girls were sold or given up by their families to serve as forced prostitutes in the Hindu temples. She met a little girl named Preena (which means pearl-eyes), who had run away from the temple. The plight of young girls like Preena tore at Amy’s heart. She knew she had to do something about it.
In India it was hard for a white person like Amy to spend time among the poor without drawing attention to herself. So Amy came up with a disguise that helped her avoid being detected. She wore a sari, the traditional dress of women in India, and used tea bags to dye her skin dark brown. Amy realized then that God’s response to her prayer request years earlier—the “no” that came when she asked for blue eyes—was actually an answer that would enable her to help rescue girls.
Amy’s brown eyes made her disguise more convincing. If she’d had blue eyes, she’d have never been able to mix with the crowd in a land where everyone was brown-eyed. She began to understand that her brown eyes were a gift from God.
Amy rescued and cared for hundreds of girls—and later boys, too—over the course of her lifetime. The children called her Amma – mother — and she in turn, took care of them with a mother’s tender care. Amy once received a letter from a girl who was considering going into missionary work. The girl asked what missionary life was like, and Amy responded by saying this: “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”
It’s really interesting how some things we may not like about ourselves, or things we view as weaknesses, can actually be assets. Those characteristics that we may think are unattractive, or that make us different from others, might actually be part of God’s unique plan for us. Think about it: Amy’s brown eyes that made her feel different from her family were one reason she was able to be effective in rescuing little girls from slavery. I know alot of us think something about the way we look is unattractive or we see it as a weakness. In a world so focused on externals with artificial attractiveness set up as the ideal it can be hard to see the truth about ourselves – we were created uniquely we are not mistakes.
Know this, girls and women: God thinks you are absolutely beautiful he adores you. He doesn’t measure you according to the world’s standards or compare you with some airbrushed model on a magazine cover. You are undeniably beautiful.
Happy International Women’s Day. Use your power for good.
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In addition to being Valentine’s Day, today is the birthday of one of my heroes – Frederick Douglass. A man who was not only a brilliant thinker and author but a courageous man who, once he won his freedom, used it to bring freedom to others. Through his incredible writing and speaking, Douglass got a nation thinking. He became a voice for people who didn’t have a voice. A legacy I’m hoping my generation will continue.
If you haven’t read the “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” it is worth reading. The timeless language and message makes the book seem as though it could have been written today. I was especially moved by a letter he wrote to his slave master treating him with the dignity and respect he didn’t deserve. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Douglass’s great, great, great grandson a few years ago. Kenneth B. Morris has stepped into the legacy of his ancestor and is helping bring hope to people enslaved today. I recently read the piece below from Douglass’s writings that sheds light on the role people of faith played in the slave trade:
“I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of the land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity. I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of ‘stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.’ I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus. . . . The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together. The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other—devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.” — Frederick Douglass (Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass)
My hope is that people of faith would be a voice for freedom and a voice for the oppressed. That churches would be safe havens not for oppressors and prejudice but for those who are mistreated and misunderstood. This passage in Amos 5 is a pretty compelling argument:
[21-24] “I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.” (The Message)
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Sometimes I get asked about the steps someone should take in launching an effort to bring relief and hope to the world. As though there’s a special formula for investing your time and resources to make a difference. I’ve seen all kinds of campaigns come and go – but here are five simple keys I put on my Twitter account last week that seem to be universal when we talk about bringing hope.
Do you have others? I’d appreciate hearing them in the comment section.
KEYS TO BRINGING HOPE:
1. Stop arguing over petty things. What was your last argument about?Self-focused or others-focused.
2. Put away selfish ambition.
3. Ask how you can help rather than forcing your plans.
4. Listen and learn. Investigate history,seek counsel,take the best and humbly run with it.
5. Courage not to look the other way.Let the troubles of the world move you.You are the someone.Today is the day.
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Even as a little kid, the writing and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. resonated with me. His talk about love and hate. Peaceful revolution. The longing for the dream of equality to be lived out in reality. His bent toward justice. I would have loved to have met him, asked him questions, probed how this ordinary young man found the courage to say “yes” to putting himself in harms way and speak up at a time when he must have known it could cost him his life.
If you look at some of @shaunking ‘s Twitter posts from this morning you’ll see just how ordinary Dr. King was. We tend to magnify him into some unreal, unreachable model of a man. Sometimes I think we do that to people to keep us from taking our own place in history. If they are these huge icons then we get a pass. If they are like us, we have a new standard.
My hope is that we would see ourselves stepping into the legacy of Dr. King and many others throughout history who said “yes” to opportunities in front of them to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with their God. It is easy to look at the problems in the world and see how big they are and to feel inadequate; to feel overwhelmed. Or to be angry and wonder why someone isn’t doing something! Or to think if I am able to do something to relieve suffering and bring justice it will be someday. I want to encourage you, YOU are the someone and TODAY is the day!
“Strength to Love” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I Have A Dream – Writings and Speeches” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr
“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” From Strength to Love
“Hate is rooted in fear. The only cure for fear-hate is love.” From Strength to Love
“Man, by his own power can never cast evil from the world.” From Strength to Love