Why I Write

I write because I am alive. Not because I feel alive, or I need to feel alive, but because I am. Alive.
I see writing as a duty. I see literacy as a privilege. I see education, knowledge, setting seeing eyes to paper as privilege. So writing becomes a natural response born of a grateful heart.
I have never believed that words don’t hurt. Words do far greater damage than sticks and stones. They kick the crap out of people everyday.
But words… words can also elevate. They can encourage, edify, strengthen, affirm. They can set free…
Freedom. We are free to choose our words carefully or not. We can choose to speak of love not hate.
compassion not oppression.
peace not war.
justice not the status quo.
So I write. Everyday I write.



A Broken Letter

Dear Israel,

I love you. I always have. I grew up listening to stories about you. I read all about you. How God formed you; how God rescued you; how God loved you; how God was always about redeeming you. You were for me creation, adventure, war and peace, community, love, scandal. That was your story. Kings, queens, sorcerers, dark magic. And as in all good stories love romances and wins and the Prince rides in to save His bride. That was your story. I found myself in your story no matter what chapter my own story was in.

But Israel, I grew up. And long before my story began, you grew up too. You had new stories to tell. Tales of genocide and diaspora, of oppression and the bitterness and need for vindication that grows out of such horrific and defining events. Your story turned into tragedy and before long I was weeping for you, heart broken for you. I longed to come to you. I longed to walk your streets and touch your walls. I wanted to drink all of you in. Your beauty, your holiness. I wanted, Israel, to be part of your story. I almost was...

Israel, I didn't know you had me fooled. Your new story that was taking shape had a twist I wasn't ready for. It was loaded with secrets and lies on every page. Israel, you betrayed me. I was weeping once more not for you, but because of you. My heart was broken once more not for you, but because of you. What happened? Had you been so beaten down and hurt that victim was the only role you knew how to play? Did you not know you, too, were capable of the same injustices committed against you?

Out of my broken heart I ripped my pages from yours, convinced I could never love you again. The pain was so deep. You were God's chosen people, but surely God did not choose this. How could I ever love someone capable of such awful things? You told me you loved me, that you wanted me. You had me convinced you were right and that I needed you. But it was the old story you were selling. The one with the Prince and His bride...

You manipulated me, Israel. You were not beautiful. I had never seen such ugliness. I could hardly bear to look. You were not holy. At best you were human. I could not be invested.

But even our Author recognized these things about us both. And he is always working at redeeming us both. What will he write next?

Come, Israel, take my hand. Let us learn of grace and mercy together. Let us humble ourselves. Let us tear down the wall together. It need not be like this. But I fear you have become a ghost. Too far dead to remember what life was like, walking steadily away from heaven. So I must go, for I have another letter to write...

Dear Palestine,
I love you too.



This is What I Read

I read a book called A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken. I haven’t been able to read anything since because I suspect that no book will speak directly to my soul as A Severe Mercy. It is rare to come across a book of that depth. The book is the story of the love Sheldon shares with his wife, Davy. This is not a spoiler as any book review will disclose this, but Davy dies, and it is C.S. Lewis who tells Sheldon that her death was “a severe mercy.”

In the introduction to the book, Vanauken writes, “A severe mercy – the phrase haunted him: a mercy that was as severe as death, a death that was as merciful as love. For it had been death in love, not death of love. Love can die in many ways, most of them far more terrible than physical death; and if all natural love must die in one way or another, Davy’s death – he and she in love – was the death that hinted at springtime and rebirth.”

Read it. Please.

Before A Severe Mercy I read a book called Illegal, by Terry Greene Sterling. It was brilliant. If you want an honest look at the immigration “problem” in Phoenix, I found this to be informative and even somewhat emotional. She tells the stories of real people, not some text book explanation of an issue that many of us view from a distance.

Lastly, because A Severe Mercy cannot keep me from reading forever, I have been flipping through some of my favorite poets to quench my thirst for literature: Tennyson mostly and Emily – we are on a first name basis. She gets me. I’ll pick something else up to read pretty soon here. Oh, and I nearly forgot I am reading Radical, by David Platt in my small group. Still not sure what I think about it…



Peace is the product of justice

It is snowing outside and I am holed up in my house. The only thing that's remotely motivating me to get out is the fact that our heater is out of commission for the time being and the space heater is becoming insufficient. Days like this are perfect for reading. I have this book called Kingdom Ethics, by Glen Stassen and David Gushee that I picked up at The Archives Bookshop while on a "field trip" for my Studying and Teaching the Bible class at APU. I've never read it front to back, but I pick it up when I think it might have useful insight to whatever I am mulling over in my head.

I picked it up for some other reason, but I got stuck on the chapter entitled "Just War, Nonviolence and Just Peacemaking". It addresses each of these ethics as they pertain to war and violence. I think we can all agree that war is bad. It just is. I would be interested to hear someone's argument for war being good. (I'm not talking about intention behind a war being "good" or "just", but war itself.)

I consider myself to be a way-of-life pacifist which the authors define as: "The way-of-life pacifist is committed not only to avoiding violence but to practicing peacemaking in a positive way in all relationships." (The other type of pacifist is committed to nonviolence as a rule.) The authors outline that as Christians we should first be committed to the way of peacemaking as Jesus clearly exemplified it in the gospels. Then they explain that just war theorists need to make sure that when they claim a war to be "just" they are using the guidelines that must be practiced before you can say a war is "just". Otherwise they risk crying "Just war!" simply to rationalize the desire for war or the fact that our nation (whatever nation one may live in) has declared war. I won't get into all the specifics of what makes a war just, but if you're interested I'll happily lend you the book so you can read the chapter. I found it incredibly informative.

The chapter finally ends with the authors suggesting that just war theorists and pacifists alike need to be committed to just peacemaking for which they give ten practices:
1. Support nonviolent direct action (as exemplified by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.).
2. Take independent initiatives to reduce threat.
3. Use cooperative conflict resolution. ( "Jesus said that when there is anger between us and another, we must drop everything, go to the other, and make peace. It is a command, not an option." Matthew 5:23)
4. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice; seek repentance and forgiveness.
5. Promote democracy, human rights and religious liberty. ("Spreading peace is done by networks of persons willing to work together to gain public attention for protection against human rights violations.")
6. Foster just and sustainable economic development.
7. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system.
8. Strengthen the United Nations and international organizations.
9. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade.
10. Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations.

They end with: "Therefore, we urge you not to say, 'I support just peacemaking theory. It is better than both pacifism and just war theory, and I support it and not them.' We do urge you to support just peacemaking theory for what it actually contributes, and to teach it in your church and to demand its practices of your government. We urge you also to discuss both pacifism and just war theory carefully, in your Christian community, and seek in prayer and community to discern which is your calling. Then when all else fails, and the government is about to declare war, you can make a clear witness."




I finished Middlesex. It was a great read. Not only is the story a beautiful story, but it is made even better by Eugenides talent and prose. I find Cal to be an intriguing, thoughtful, and informed narrator. I would recommend this book to almost anyone, noting that the subject matter is mature. But a fantastic story. I loved this book and agree with all the hype. I've included a passage from the book below.

"There it was, monster, in black and white, in a battered dictionary in a great city library. A venerable, old book, the shape and size of a headstone, with yellowing pages that bore marks of the multitudes who had consulted them before me. There were pencil scrawls and ink stains, dried blood, snack crumbs; and the leather binding itself was secured to the lecturn by a chain. Here was a book that contained the collected knowledge of the past while giving evidence of present social conditions. The chain suggested that some library visitors might take it upon themselves to see that the dictionary circulated. The dictionary contained every word in the English language but the chain knew only a few. It knew thief and steal and, maybe, purloined. The chain spoke of poverty and mistrust and inequality and decadence. Callie herself was holding on to this chain now. She was tugging it, winding it around her hand so that her fingers went white, as she stared down at that word. Monster. Still there. It had not moved. And she wasn't reading this word on the wall of her old bathroom stall. There was graffiti in Webster's but the synonym wasn't part of it. The synonym was official, authoritative; it was the verdict that the culture gave on a person like her. Monster. That was what she was. That was what Dr. Luce and his colleagues had been saying. It explained so much, really. It explained her mother crying in the next room. It explained the false cheer in Milton's voice. It explained why her parents had brought her to New York, so that the doctors could work in secret. It explained the photographs, too. What did people do when they came upon Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster? They tried to get a picture. For a second Callie saw herself that way. As a lumbering, shaggy creature pausing at the edge of woods. As a humped convolvulus rearing its dragon's head from an icy lake. Her eyes were filling now, making the print swim, and she turned away and hurried out of the library."


"We read to know that we are not alone." - C.S. Lewis

Somebody reminded me that I have not blogged in awhile and so to appease said person I have decided to at least catch you up on my reading list. I've been a busy reader, but I must admit that most of my reading time has gone to Harry Potter so I'll begin with that.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Half Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows
I am a Harry Potter fanatic! I loved all of the books and the last 3 just kept getting better and better. Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows took me a bit of time, but I think I read through Half Blood Prince in three days! After reading all seven, I have been considering which book is my favorite. I think my top three are 3) Order of the Phoenix; 2) Prisoner of Azkaban; and 1) Deathly Hallows. And Snape! Oh Snape...

Palestine, Peace not Apartheid, by Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter is not my favorite author, but the man knows his stuff! Obviously I can't critique his domestic policy as I was not even alive at the time of his presidency, but he is my hero when it comes to foreign policy as it pertains to Israel and the Middle East. It was refreshing to read a book written by an educated politician/man of deep faith who has a heart not solely for the Arab or Israeli world, but for all humanity to have the same basic rights, to have justice, and to have peace. It would be a dream to intern/work/volunteer at The Carter Center one day.

Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
I don't even know how to explain this book. It's been a couple months since I've read it. The book is about the oppression of women and girls in the developing world. The book addresses how unleashing the potential of women is an amazing strategy in the fight against poverty. The female population of much of the world is the greatest unexploited economic resource. The book is informative, rich, full of hope and cannot at all be labeled "feminist." Men and women alike should pick it up.

Acts of Faith, by Eboo Patel
Acts of Faith is an book about an American Muslim and his journey to adulthood, understanding what it means to be Muslim and on the way learning about other faiths.
I love that the book is really about young people and what can be accomplished. Having had experience with interfaith dialogue I appreciated his sincerity and desire to learn about other faiths. Patel speaks of educating youth and bringing different faiths together for the common good. The book is really about rejecting religious intolerance and learning to embrace and accept others completely. I wrestled with parts of the book as I am not a religious pluralist (according to some definitions) nor a universalist. However, the book was inspiring and educational, and I really enjoyed it.

On the horizon and currently being read: Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides; A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn; revisiting The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis for the movie release this winter!!!!!; and soon to start Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins.



The Long Awaited

It has been quite awhile since I last posted anything, but I've been sick so what better time to update? Sick seems to be the story of my life this past month. Between Halloween and now, I've had three different viruses. That's three weeks, three viruses. I can think of two reasons for this onslaught of illness. 1) My immune system hates me. 2) I started a new job working with homeless youth at a drop-in center that my boss so appropriately named "The Sick Box." But since I have so much time with nothing to do (the doctor deemed me still contagious which means no work and a lot of boredom to contend with) let's start the update!

I started a new job at the Homeless Youth Resource Center of Salt Lake City. The center is exists for homeless or at risk of being homeless youth ages 15-22. The youth can come in and receive our services that include, but are not limited to showers, laundry, 2 meals a day, food bank items, job assistance, case management, hygiene items, a safe place to hang out, etc. We are not a shelter, so they don't stay overnight at our facility, and unfortunately we are only open on the weekdays. I actually work for AmeriCorps, which is a government agency and they, in turn, placed me at the Homeless Youth Resource Center, which functions under the larger Volunteers of America - Utah. VOA is one of the largest nonprofit agencies in the country. My commitment to AmeriCorps/The Center is for one year. So far, I find the job both rewarding and tiring. It drains me emotionally to see where some of our clients are at and what they've been through, but fills me to see the good that the center does. And I won't lie, I don't miss serving tables one bit.

Next week, for Thanksgiving, Erin and Ron are coming to Salt Lake for a visit. This is SO exciting to me for a number of reasons. First, it's always good to see them. Secondly, because I can't go home or be with family for Christmas, it is so important to me that I get to be with family on Thanksgiving! I can't wait for Tuesday to get here.

In a couple weeks I, along with three roommates, will move into a house in the lovely Salt Lake neighborhood of Sugarhouse, more descriptively to those familiar with the grid system, 15th and 15th. I have loved, loved, loved living with the Rogers and am greatly appreciative, but as they get ready for big changes in their life (!) I am happy to move into my own place! I'm sure there will be pictures to follow.

And... it's been awhile so here's what's new in my reading world. Admittedly, I've been horrible at reading lately. I've been so busy with so many things (new job, middle school volunteering, small group, GRE studying) that I haven't had a lot of time to read. I finished Things Fall Apart. Throughout the book I couldn't decide if I actually liked it, and I'm still not decided. It is a dark, mysterious, fascinating, and tragic book. I would love to hear thoughts from someone who has read it. I am now on the fourth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. For some reason it doesn't hold my attention as the previous three did. I hope this changes because I don't want to be a Harry Potter quitter. I also picked up a random book that I haven't been able to put down called The Heretic's Daughter, by Kathleen Kent. It's a historical fiction novel centering around the Salem Witch Trials. Occasionally, I read the dictionary in preparation for the GRE. Not a fascinating read...

Well, there you have it!