Saturday, July 18, 2009

Blood River

It has been a couple of months since I finished Blood River
but I keep thinking about the tragic picture it paints of the Congo. Subtitled A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart, Tim Butcher's book tells the story of his trip down the length of Africa's Congo River, from deep in the continent to the Atlantic. Along the way, Butcher bears witness to the deterioration caused by decades of war and neglect in the DRC. Trains and highways are swallowed up by the jungle. Sunken steamships clog the river. A transit worker still reports to work daily, but has not seen a bus—or had anything to do—for nine years. Villagers tell stories of long lost technology to grandchildren who may never experience it for themselves. And all the while, foreign soldiers and armed militias guard the mines from which they continue to extract wealth. The book does not suggest solutions, but it is a fascinating journey and a deep lament.

Monday, January 07, 2008

I saw the movie, "The Kite Runner", last night with Tim. I am probably the only person in my circle of friends who has not read the book and had no idea what the movie was about. Two young boys forge a friendship in Afghanistan before the Russian invasion. One boy brims with courage and one with cowardice. A horrific act by neighborhood bullies tears the boys apart as the coward looks the other way instead of intervening.

The movie brings redemption through the next generation. It shows the hard work of making amends when you could choose to walk away. The cancer of unforgiveness against yourself and against others spreads until it is routed out by the discipline of reconciliation.

Go see the movie. Rejoice in grace. Joni

Thursday, October 18, 2007

GAZE: An excerpt from Lifespace

Here is a gift from us to you—an excerpt from LifeSpace: the Practice of Life with God. It is our first chapter, entitled "Gaze."

Click on the image below—the ripped up masking tape will make sense shortly—to read the chapter. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

LifeSpace: The practice of life with God

The book is now available ! If you would like to be the first on your block to have a copy, now is the time to order!

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Grief and Hope in South Africa

Our South African friend, Leani, expresses her passion for people through warm relationships, unrelenting enthusiasm, and an abiding concern for social justice. She recently recommended some videos that are well worth watching, and we pass them on to you.

"Red Dust" portrays the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the difficult path toward wholeness after apartheid. The dust has been made red with human blood, and now the victims, their friends and families are asked to grant amnesty to those who will confess to the crimes. After the stories are told and forgiveness is excruciatingly extended, one of the victims states simply, "We still have the right to say that it hurt." Indeed.

"Tsotsi" seems to have been misunderstood by many viewers, perhaps even by its distributor. Described on the DVD cover as a story of redemption, this film about a teenage thug in Johannesburg does not offer much hope. Instead, it reminds the viewer that "AIDS touches us all." Essentially orphaned by the loss of his mother to AIDS, Tsotsi learns to survive on his own. His actions touch the wealthy even more directly than the poor, in spite of their insulated neighborhoods. In the end, the street thug is seen more clearly and sympathetically as a frightened boy, and we wonder what might have been done to bring him a different future. The film thus reminds us of our responsibility to those who are known to most of us only as statistics.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Reading Old Books

C. S. Lewis argued for the reading of old books, especially in theology. He wrote,"Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o'clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. Remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity ("mere Christianity" as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between."

There is a reason why some books are still in print after a thousand years. They are worth reading! That is why we so frequently turn to the Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Browse it by author, and you will find some of the most influential thinkers in the history of the church. Bookmark this one--you will love it!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Leaving Church

One of the highlights of last week's trip to Washington, D.C. was Sunday morning worship at St. John's Lafayette Square. The small yellow church across from the White House is known as the church of the presidents, but we were not hoping for a brush with power. We came to hear the "really real" voice of Barbara Brown Taylor.
Barbara Taylor has been an Episcopal priest since 1984. Her most recent book, Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith, reflects on the 15 years she spent in parish ministry and her decision to leave it. She is quick to say that she has found a different kind of ministry in teaching, writing, and speaking, but she has also found a different kind of faith. That story, told beautifully in Leaving Church, is very much worth reading.
"If it is true that God exceeds all our efforts to contain God," Taylor writes, "then is it too big a stretch to declare that dumbfoundedness is what all Christians have most in common? Or that coming together to confess all that we do not know is at least as sacred an activity as declaring what we think we do know?" Observing that "the poets began drifting away from churches as the jurists grew louder and more insistent," she writes that she "wanted to recover the kind of faith that has nothing to do with being sure what I believe and everything to do with trusting God to catch me though I am not sure of anything."
Leaving Church is one person's story, but it is a story through which we see ourselves, others, and the gracious presence of God more clearly. Taylor writes, "This is not the life I planned or the life I recommend to others. But it is the life that has turned out to be mine, and the central revelation in it for me--that the call to serve God is first and last the call to be fully human--seems important enough to witness to on paper."

(photo credit: Don Chambers,