31 July 2009

Sanctuary is now Station 12

I revisited the church of my childhood this week.
Very little about it is the same. People have come and gone, though many familiar faces have just matured.

The building has grown and been adjusted to meet present needs.
The main worship area, what we called the sanctuary, is now the children's worship area and it's decor reflects it's new audience. There's firetruck emerging through the front wall and a local community theme prevails throughout. Emergency lights and all kinds of signs adorn the ceilings and walls.

I remember painting those white pillars, taking extra care where the smooth white surface met the grooved wood of the ceiling as it stretched upwards to a point. It would seem that my meticulous care was all for nothing as wires hang from hooks in the wood and tape or adhesives hold paraphernalia in place on the smooth painted surfaces.

But I remember the process, often all alone high on the scaffolding, just God and me in a space I had only looked up to from the comfort of my pew during those long sermons on Summer nights. I remember how I counted it a spiritual act of service to paint well, even though no one would come along and critique my work. I did it for God. Like the little drummer boy; it was what I could offer.

I also remember that someone came along and turned on the ceiling fans while I was up there. I just was able to hit the deck and avoid getting knocked off by the blades of the fans. That was not a shout of praise that came from my lips!

I remember counting the panes of stained glass on each side of the big wooden cross which was designed to have a white shadow shape behind it. We also counted the bricks in the walls that disguised the entry from each side in to the baptistry. The zigzag pattern of the brickwork sure made it hard to count from the back of the sanctuary. I had no way of holding my place in the count without giving myself away to whomever was preaching!

I also remember thinking that one day I'd get married in that sanctuary. Having attended many weddings there, and a few funerals, I tried to picture the day I'd walk up that aisle. I mentioned that to the Children's Minister once, the architect of the "new look" of the sanctuary.

He laughed and said, "Let's do it! It'll be fun and we haven't had a wedding at Station 12 yet!"

He's married so he was not proposing. There's no hurry. Who knows what theme will be in place if or when I need to reserve the room.

30 July 2009

"Shut up for a minute."

"Okay everyone, shut up for a minute.

Seriously. When’s the last time you just listened? I’ve been around you; I know you don’t do it. I’ve seen you at meetings, giving your opinion about everything. I’ve seen you at church, talking about the flaws in the message. I’ve seen you with your family, where everyone is talking and not a word is heard. And you’ve seen me too."

Shut up and pay attention!

A blog post by Paul Lytle on Christian Pilgrimage.

“Hear, O sons, a father's instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight,”
-Proverbs 4:1

"As children, we learn to express ourselves long before we learn to be silent and attentive. We never seem to get that equation quite right. Can you imagine how many more words are spoken in this world than are heard?

Just today I was trying to speak to a customer about something, and she didn’t listen to a single word I said. It was fairly annoying, especially since she was complaining about something the law required me to do. But before I can get too annoyed, I have to wonder just how attentive I’ve been to others.

We have a big problem in this age with authority. The very word has a negative connotation now. Even Christians will often deny the right of the government to wield authority, or of church elders to hold them accountable for moral issues. “You can’t judge me” has become a common phrase even in sanctuaries.
We talk all day about the right to free speech. Which is great as things go, but what about the responsibility to listen?

Our desire to go our own way extends to the way we treat the Bible. Most Christians don’t read it at all. If they do, they ignore certain parts, saying those parts are cultural or doesn’t apply any more. We write books and blogs, justifying those low views of Scripture. We keep talking, so we don’t have to listen. continued . . .

I dare you to go over to Paul Lytle's blog and read the rest of it.
I don't know how much of Paul's writings I would agree with it,
but I loved how he wrote this post. Blunt. In your face.
No fluffing around. Refreshing. I'll shut up now.

29 July 2009

Pilgrimage: Just another Journey, or something more?

Journey is a theme that arises in my life. It may not arise anymore than other worthy themes or motifs, but it is one to which I am attuned, so I notice it more.

Other terms that come to mind are pilgrimage, sojourn, traverse, wander, trek, voyage.

Antonyms suggested by one dictionary are stay, wait.

I'm not sure I agree with those in total. I often will wait at points on my journey, will stay awhile to get a feel for a place or to sense the essence of a place.

I think a true antonym would be stagnate, to be stuck or in a rut.

Many famous journeys are recorded in history books.

Marco Polo, Amelia Earhart,
Lewis & Clark, David Livingstone,
Jack Kerouac, Edmund Hillary

What made them go?

Focusing specifically on the pilgrimage theme, I dug a little deeper.

If you look at some maps of major religious pilgrimages of the world, you'll likely see that there are none in the US. I don't think they took in to consideration annual trips to the Indy 500 or treks across Route 66.

Symbols of pilgrimage vary but the shell may be used as a symbol for pilgrimage, and may be used as an emblem for saints known for their travels (such as St. James) or whose shrines have become destinations for pilgrims.

I know I have taken journeys with no predetermined destination. I know that God has accompanied me and the fellowship has been sweet. While I have visited the tomb of Thomas, the doubting but faithful apostle who is reported to have traveled as far as Southern India, it was not a pilgrimage as such to that specific place.
I was on a journey, but it was a journey outside of my comfort zone. It was a releasing rather than an grasping, a departure rather than an arrival.

In the whole world, there are only three churches built over the tomb of an Apostle of Jesus Christ -
- Basilica of Saint Peter built over the tomb of St.Peter in Rome,
- Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela built over the tomb of St.James in Spain and
- Basilica of the National Shrine of St.Thomas built over the tomb of St.Thomas. Basilica of the National Shrine of St.Thomas is in Chennai, India.
I love visiting the old cathedrals, well established gardens and awesome mountain tops. I seek these out in my travels and often bore my companions to tears.

My walk on the Milford Track on NZ's South Island was a pilgrimage of sorts. Much of the journey I walked alone; alone with my thoughts and prayers and the exhilaration of beauty and accomplishment.

Some people make a pilgrimage home, or back to a significant place in their personal history. I have often found that the reality of particular places did not match my memory of them. Too much had changed, in the place and in me.
Have you ever made a pilgrimage?
What sort was it?
Was it a trip down memory lane or something more than that?

For more information on pilgrimages read one of these . . .

Phil Cousineau's book Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred

For thousands of years, the need for meaningful travel has been met through pilgrimage. With the millennium quickly approaching it's estimated that, in the year ahead, more people will journey in search of sacred inspiration than in any other time in history. The Vatican is expecting nearly thirteen million celebrants for the year 2000, and another three to four million travelers will make their way to the Holy Land. Phil Cousineau is author of the book, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred. When Phil stopped by recently, we asked him to explain the difference between a pilgrimage and a vacation.

Pilgrimage By Linda Kay Davidson, David Martin Gitlitz

Book overview

From Mecca to Graceland, Canterbury to Vatican City, special places that affect the human spirit have been luring multitudes of visitors throughout human history. Where are the world's most important pilgrimage sites? Who are the pilgrims? Why are they going? How do they behave once they reach their destinations? Pilgrimage is a comprehensive compendium of all the basic facts from ancient times to the 21st century. Illustrated with maps and photographs that enrich the reader's journey, this authoritative volume explores sites, people, activities, rites, terminology, and other matters related to pilgrimage such as economics, tourism, and disease. Encompassing all major and minor world religions, from ancient cults to modern faiths, both religious and secular pilgrimage sites are covered. Compiled by experts, who have co-authored numerous books on pilgrimage and are pilgrims in their own right, the entries will appeal to students, scholars, and general readers.

28 July 2009

Laundromat Fellowship

Went to a laundromat yesterday.
I only needed to do two half loads, but the emphasis there should be on the need and not the quantity. Traveling light necessitates washing clothes more often.

Hmm. 75 cents for soap powder.
75 cents for s softener dryer sheet.
$1.50 for each load of washing, so $3 there.
25 cents for 6 minutes of dryer time. I like to hang my clothes outside, but that would require attaching them to the antennae of the car and driving between the bugs on the highway, so I paid for 18 minutes of drying time.

The people sharing the space with me looked like locals. They seemed to know each other and were friendly. I overheard some of their conversation. One lady had been in a car crash when someone pulled out in front of her at an intersection. Another lady who used to work there had been fired. No one seemed sorry about that. She must not have been friendly and so was not missed.

There were carts with a rail overhead for hanging clothes on hangers. I remember the same design when I was a kid, I guess you can't improve on it much.

Seats were scattered at convenient places amongst the big machines, but then there was a lounge area at the far end. People who do their laundry here regularly meet on the same night each week. A task is the catalyst for their gatherings, but they then make the most of it by sharing the space, engaging in conversation and eating together. Advice on common problems is shared and a network develops. Over time they find they have much in common and they support each other in the challenges of life.

In churches we often talk about the lost being found and saved. I love this lost sock photo I saw online. I'm a sock snob so losing a sock would be serious business to me.

Got a name to attach to laundromat community?

God may not feature as much more than an expletive, so this isn't necessarily a faith community, but goodwill features large and belonging is obvious.
It's almost like it's the Fellowship of the Revolving Drums, which reminds me of the Fellowship of The Ring and those who were part of it.
Frodo will need his friends. And you will need yours. You must cling to those you have, you must search far and wide for those you do not yet have. You must not go alone. From the beginning, right there in Eden, the Enemy’s strategy has relied upon a simple aim: Divide and conquer. Get them isolated, and take them out.

Dorothy takes her journey with the Scarecrow, the Tinman, the Lion, and of course, Toto. Prince Caspian is joined by the last few faithful Narnians, and together they overthrow the wicked king Miraz. . . . . and of course, Jesus had the Twelve. This written so deeply on our hearts: You must not go alone. The Scriptures are full of such warnings . . . John Eldredge, in Waking the Dead

Have a similar example of community?
Playgroups? Little League moms? Traveling league teams or squads?

Laundromat Jokes--
- I hate using the public laundromat, because it's always full of freaks.
There's the Naked People, washing their one set of clothes;
the Friendly People, who won't stop talking to you;
the Folders, who get all anal about folding everything.
Oh, and worst of all are the Dryer-Lint Nuts, who have
to throw every last bit of their dryer lint away.
What do they care if I collect their lint and take it home?

- I'm not a big fan of video games, but there's this one arcade
nearby that I love. I'm really good at this one game:
it costs a buck, and if you win, your clothes get washed.
I can't seem to figure out their other game, though.

27 July 2009

A Good Fit

Drew McLellan writes,

"Most bad customers are not really bad customers. They’re just bad customers for you. They’re a bad fit. And it’s your fault. Many businesses don’t want to miss out on any sales opportunity, so they say they can do everything. They don’t want to define themselves and risk losing a customer. So the poor customers are out there trying to comparison shop and everyone looks the same. So they take a stab at it and sometimes they guess wrong. Which means you have a bad customer on your hands."
That is true for vaguely named funeral services to pet stores to restaurants. I know it is true for universities because we often get students who ought to have gone somewhere else to study something else, something fulfilling and right for them.

Is it not also true for churches? Do we not often think we'd like each person through the door to stick around, to become part of things, to like us? Sometimes they are comparison shopping. They should keep looking until they find the right faith community where they can connect and grow. If our expression of a faith community is not right for them, we should not want them to stay with us. It's not good for them, for us or for the Church overall.

Whether it is government, business, or church, ugly things result from having the wrong people in the wrong places.

Funny business names:

Juan More Taco ~ Taqueria in Fremont, CA
A Den of Antiquity ~ Ashville, North Carolina
Board to Death ~ Surfer Store
Curl Up & Dye ~ Hair Salon
Dirty Dogs Done Dirt Cheap ~ A Mobile Dog Grooming Service
Boxwell Brothers Funeral Directors ~ in Texas
Salt and Battery ~ Fish and Chips, Brisbane, Australia
Wok N Roll ~ Multiple Locations across the US
Cyclepath ~ Bicycle Store, Hayward & San Mateo, CA
Know Knew Books ~ Used Book Store, Palo Alto, CA

Interesting church names:

Winding Way Church of Christ, Carmichael, CA
("straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life," Mat. 7:14)

Greater Evangelistic Cathedral Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Incorporated, Vineland, NJ (14 words! Put that on a letter head or URL!)

They say it is good to shop around:

Sears United Methodist Church, Sears, MI
Roebuck Plaza United Methodist Church, Birmingham, AL
WARD United Methodist Church, Canton, PA
Safe Way Baptist Church, Duncanville, TX
Avis United Methodist Church, Avis, PA
Goodrich United Methodist Church, MI

26 July 2009

Ideas for Creativity

Keri Smith's ideas for creativity
1. Go for a walk. Draw or list things you find on the the sidewalk. 2. Write a letter to yourself in the future. 3. Buy something inexpensive as a symbol for your need to create, (new pen, a tea cup, journal). Use it everyday. 4. Draw your dinner. 5. Find a piece of poetry you respond to. Rewrite it and glue it into your journal. 6. Glue an envelope into your journal. For one week collect items you find on the street. 7. Expose yourself to a new artist, (go to a gallery, or in a book.) Write about what moves you about their work. 8. Find a photo of a person you do not know. Write a brief bio about them. 9. Spend a day drawing only red things. 10. Draw your bike. 11. Make a list of everything you buy in the next week. 12. Make a map of everywhere you went in one day. 13. Draw a map of the creases on your hand, (knuckles, palm) 14. Trace your footsteps with chalk. 15. Record an overheard conversation. 16. Trace the path of the moon in relation to where you live. 17. Go to a paint store. Collect 'chips' of all your favorite colors.

Mutual Influence

I sit and listen to a tall dark African man speak about God in a thick accent that some in the audience cannot understand. They grab a word here and there, but the intonation is different, making familiar words sound exotic.

Some in this crowd have lived most of their adult lives in Hong Kong, Columbia, Chile, Portugal or various countries of Africa. Many of the attendees are from small to medium sized cities of the states of Indiana and Ohio. Most of this crowd would do better than most Americans in trivia quizzes as to countries and cultures of the world, yet may not have traveled much or far. It’s an odd mix really.

Every year for 75 years people have gathered at this lakeside camp in Northern Indiana to pray that the hope Jesus offers is made known to all people in every culture. You may or may not agree with their agenda, may not identify with their faith, may not understand their worldview, but I think you’d like most of these people. They are the real thing. Many of them have simple needs, laugh easily and are generous in spirit.

When I am overseas, living outside my country of origin, I am a foreigner, betrayed by my accent and often labeled with a stereotype that fits me not at all. When I am in my home country, I am again a foreigner because I have been exposed to a variety of foods, languages, experiences and ideas that have stretched me and enriched me.

Here, at this lakeside camp I am relatively normal. I am accepted, included. People are interested in my travels and experiences; asking intelligent questions and then waiting for the answer.

The man on stage serves in a church in Harare, a church one of our old men grew and built a building for. This tall man is both the result and the means of God’s love and hope at work in Africa. He is the answer to prayer, and now supported in prayer, as he continues what others started.

The tall African man still speaks and the people lean forward to understand better. They laughed just now at his joke and they await the kernel of truth, of insight they can gain from a man from a far away country.

reciprocality: a relation of mutual dependence or action or influence

reciprocity: The social norm of reciprocity is the expectation that people will respond to each other in similar ways -- responding to gifts and kindnesses from others with similar benevolence of their own, and responding to harmful, hurtful acts from others with either indifference or some form of retaliation.

25 July 2009

Friends Struggle Together

American Jesus

For an interesting expose on Jesus recreated in our own image, check out
American Jesus
series at Christ Church of the Valley, Covina, California, USA.

Jul 5 When God Exits, by Jeff Vines
Jun 28 The Narrow Road, by Jeff Vines
Jun 21 Moving Toward The Light!, by Jeff Vines

24 July 2009

Here come the Kiwis - NZ landmass heads towards Australia

by Rich Bowden - Jul 23 2009, 06:52
Prompting jokes about cheaper airfares, geological studies have shown last week's huge earthquake has shifted New Zealand's South Island an extra 30 cm towards Australia.

"New Zealand just got a little bit bigger," earthquake scientist Ken Gledhill was quoted as saying by Queensland's The Courier Mail. He said the quake did it "in a few seconds rather than waiting hundreds of years".

Despite the immensity of the recorded 7.8 quake which triggered tsunami alerts in Australia and New Zealand, very little in the way of damage was recorded due to the remoteness of the quake's epicentre - in sparsely populated Fiordland region in the country's south.

"New Zealand has been very fortunate. This earthquake anywhere else would have caused huge damage," he said.

The mayor of Invercargill, Tim Shadbolt, told Radio New Zealand News that he welcomed the fact that parts of the country were now closer to Australia.

"I'm absolutely delighted. I built an international airport in Invercargill because we're the closest city in New Zealand to Australia and it will become more and more realistic the closer we get," he said. The Tech Herald

23 July 2009


"I am a bottle of olive oil when you put it in the fridge - my usual sleek green goes solid, cloudy. I won’t pour. I am stuck in the vessel."
from blogger Helen Squared
con·sis·ten·cy \kən-ˈsis-tən(t)-sē\ MW Dictionary Online

Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural con·sis·ten·cies Date: 1594
1 aarchaic : condition of adhering together : firmness of material substance
: firmness of constitution or character : persistency
2: degree of firmness, density, viscosity, or resistance to movement or separation of constituent particles consistency of a thick syrup>
3 a: agreement or harmony of parts or features to one another or a whole : correspondence ; specifically : ability to be asserted together without contradiction
: harmony of conduct or practice with profession consistency>

Worldview: Affected by Physical Context?

If you were to compare my blog posts written in New Zealand, Australia, India, USA or Thailand, I wonder if you could discern any perceptible difference in my worldview?

Does location make much difference in my writing?
In my vocabulary or choice of topics?
I'd say the conversations I have in a day, the people I'm around, would influence my thinking, and therefore, my writing.

I tried to get in on the wrong side of the car today.
I've been with people who have lived in enough countries that we don't notice an exotic blend of vocabulary. There is no normal amongst us, in more ways than one.

I even had an argument this evening in two languages with a teenager who grew up in Central America. Neither of us cared about the argument or outcome; we were just having fun. He spoke Spanish and I spoke chiShona. It made no difference really as opponents rarely listen to each other in arguments anyway.

22 July 2009

Conversations with Tea

Social Networking my be well described in “Beautiful Cosmos” by Kathryn Williams
I find cups of tea with a good friend are a conversation, a sharing of space, of life.

“You are the centre of your little world and I am of mine.
Now and again we meet for tea, we’re two of a kind.
This is our universe, cups of tea.
We have a beautiful cosmos, you and me.
We have a beautiful cosmos.”

( listen to a snippet here).

21 July 2009

Dramatic Reminiscence

I was talking to a friend recently about an amateur drama production I was in years ago. I thought about the stage props and how much time and effort we put in to things. I thought about rehearsals and who was in the play.

We had a great time, a few conflicts which we learned heaps from and then, finally, a great run of performances. That may be about all that was ever heard about that script. People came. They sat and enjoyed and left. What do they remember? Probably only those of us who were in it remember much at all. I think it had something to do with hell.

We spoke much about the arts and the fact that our college was not funding us. They paid for sports teams and travel to tournaments, but not our efforts to communicate through drama.
Age old argument as to how to allocate funding within society and whether arts are essential or a luxury.

The man who wrote and directed the play had grown up in Southern Rhodesia, which later became Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe. Our writer and director died this week. He'd gone back to his beloved Africa and instead of coming home to the US for treatment, choosing to die in Zimbabwe so he can be buried there. Possibly a dramatic ending to a creative life

"Art is not made for museums - it's made to be part of people's lives,"
says Hamish Keith, iconic Kiwi arts commentator
. Self proclaimed "Cultural odd job man."
Danny Pruett was too.

20 July 2009

World Explorer To-Do List

What do you think it takes to be an Explorer of the World? See Keri Smith's list.

What do you think?

19 July 2009

Transition: Cold to Hot in a blink!

Ya know how we usually gradually thaw out with the first hint of Spring, warming up, but not too shocked when we get another cold day or even a cold snap?

Well, it's COLD in Auckland. COLD. Nights are full of shivers. Mornings find people lingering under their blankets, knowing that a cup of hot tea will help, but not wanting to get up to go in to a cold kitchen.

My home in Auckland is not centrally heated. I heat one room at a time, whichever one I'm in. Makes for cold visits to the small room down the hall, I'll tell ya!

Check out Draughty & Deadly from ABC Radio
Houses in New Zealand don't protect their occupants from the temperate climate
of high rainfall and strong westerly winds. The houses' designs are based on
those from other parts of the world. And now adverse health effects have
been measured. More people die in winter than summer, a higher
proportion than in other countries. Even Siberia's houses offer
more protection from winter conditions.

Condensation can be a problem if you keep your home tightly closed up, so lots of Kiwis keep a window open a fraction, but that just lets in the cold air! North & South Magazine, June 09, has an article entitled, Why New Zealand's Houses are colder than Siberia's.

From Southern Hemisphere's Winter to Northern Hemisphere's Summer
Anyway, with the wonders of modern travel, I'm jetsetting from cold to hot without the gradual increase in temperature we usually experience. It'll be odd to think of my friends in Auckland still shivering, still huddled round their cups of tea in fleeces and scarves. I'll try not to complain. Extremes either way are often not ideal. We'll see how it goes.

18 July 2009

Between Countries

A teacher I had lunch with on Sunday commented that the Sunday night during a two week school holiday was just the best kinda feeling, knowing there was no school tomorrow.

Hmmm, my best feeling, on a similar kinda scale, would be when I get on the airplane and find myself disconnected, between countries and responsibilities, with nothing I need to do for 12+ hours but read a novel.

I'll have a suspense who-dun-it, my iPod, an inflatable pillow, noise cancelling headphones, a plethora of movies and games on the in-flight entertainment system and a Sudoku puzzle book. Snacks, gum, and then the meals.

17 July 2009

This Is Not a Book

I love creative people.
They make me think.
They get me out of the boxes I allow myself to sit in.

Check out Keri Smith's latest frolic into creativity.

She's super with journals and thinking and ideas and fun.

On her site, you can click on each of her handwritten notes seen here and they take you to another page. Nice.

Aim High

SAME: adj.

  1. Being the very one; identical.
  2. Similar in kind, quality, quantity, or degree.
  3. Conforming in every detail.
  4. Being the one previously mentioned or indicated; aforesaid.

16 July 2009

Ever Met a Refugee? Pt 3 of 3

You fill out forms. Then more forms. You wait. You don’t know where they go, who sees them. You wait. Programs are announced. Meagre training schemes occupy some time. You have lots of time on your hands. Not much else. Waiting in line for your weekly box of food. Playing or watching the football games become your main interaction and entertainment. Tempers can flair! Too much emotion with too few outlets.

Rumours fly as to possibilities of going to the USA, Canada, Australia! How many can go? What ages or qualifications do they accept? What’s the weather like there?

We heard they sent some nomadic desert dwelling Sudanese to Norway. What do Nomads do in Norway in winter? Priorities shift. It’s no longer about you or the older generation. Where can we go where our kids will have opportunities? Pray for doors to open where they’ll get good education! What of culture, status, retaining our identity? Luxuries. Who will they marry? Will they always be marginalised, misfits, alien? They’ll be safe from the threat at home and will be out of this interminable hell of a camp!

“I’m doing the best I can,” he says.
“You’re doing nothing,” she replies.

Powerless. Respect diminishes. We’re together but only physically.

The kids’ English improves. They begin interpreting. We’re reliant on them in interviews with officials.
“What did he say?”
“You fill out the form. It’ll go faster.”
“But Dad, the man said it’d be better if we . . .”
“Don’t talk to me like that! I’m still your father!”

What does that even mean now? Everything’s up for re-negotiation, but I’m powerless to control the outcomes. How did we get here? Oh yeah, we walked.

Finally out of the camp in Africa. Finally out of the resettlement camp in South Auckland. We were thrown together with people from so many places to learn how to cross the street in New Zealand, how to use and flush the toilet, make a phone all and get money from the ATM.

Now I’m sharing a house down a right of way with my sister. Ahhhh. The curtains don’t match the sofa, but we have curtains. Keep ‘em closed. This is safe here in this house.

Now what? English! It’s the key to jobs, education . . . our future. Which programme? How to get there? Who pays? More paperwork. Which form?

Ever seen a refugee cry? It takes a lot to push them over the edge. Another round of forms and glitches and explanations will do it. Huge tears, slowly coursing down her dark face.

15 July 2009

Ever Met a Refugee Pt 2 of 3

One among you does not have ID. They are taken to a more secure area until that is resolved. How can it be resolved? There’s no going back to the school or clinic for corroborating documents. It’s out of your hands. You are powerless.

The rest of you are assigned to two tents in a long row of identical tents among identical rows of tents. It would be easy to get lost here. Hold on to the children!

At least you have two tents so you can utilize the space between for cooking or resting. You hear your children crying for home as they go to sleep. You hear crying from other tents. Sorrow gets no privacy.

Because you have two tents, you can carve out a bit of “privacy” or space without being either inside or right at the edge of the walking traffic between the rows. Exhaustion and fear make the situation appealing at first. Everyone has a cot and blanket. A box of veggies and a bag of rice comes on a big truck each week. You join the line and receive the allocation for your family. You walk “home” as the “provider”. Everyone’s relieved. So why do you feel so empty?

Months pass. Years. The old or frail die in the camp. Burial is again out of your control, none of the rites your culture assumed normal. Children are born in the camp. No naming ceremony or celebrations as you would have had back home. How can you celebrate the uncertainty you’ve brought this child in to? But then, you celebrated your older children in ignorance, never thinking this might happen.

What could you have done differently? Why didn’t you foresee . . . ? Can’t live there, in the land of “what if’s”. Must live here in this camp, everyday, surviving until an opportunity presents itself. “We are safe! Isn’t that enough?”

14 July 2009

Ever Met a Refugee? Pt 1 of 3

They come in all shapes and sizes, with colours, accents and stories. To sit and listen to the stories, each one as different as the particular individual telling it, will both sadden and inspire your heart.

Each will be a story of choices, though the person you’re listening to will not have made the major choices. Those choices were made for them.

The choice to have a war where normal people were just trying to live life.
The choice to be of the wrong tribe or ethnic group or religious persuasion/flavour.
The choices are often made by the powerful, or by those who want to be. Sometimes the only choices a refugee had was to get on a bus or not, or which border to try to reach safely with as many family members as could make it.

Whether Karen’ Burmese, Kurdu from Iran or Congolese, safety is often far from home and requires relinquishment of everything familiar and comfortable.

How would it be for you to awake suddenly in the early hours of the morning with a menacing and unavoidable risk drawing near? You are powerless to stop it – the first of many times you are acutely aware of your powerlessness. You seek options, but they become fewer and fewer and none of them are desirable. Finally, it is flee or die!

What do you take? Starting out you might have essential plus a few comforts; memorabilia or an extra tool. But when you have to choose between carrying your exhausted mother or child and clinging to your favourite guitar, you choose your loved one. Hopefully, between your few family members you can manage a pot, a knife, a bottle for water and a waterproof packet for your identifying documents!

You walk. You’d like to get transport for the weaker ones, but you also know you must stay together. Each other is all you really have left. Eventually, eating what you can scavenge along walkways and roads crowded with others on the move, you reach a facility set up by the Red Cross or the UN. You are sorted like sheep. Decisions are made on the basis of fitness or available places in the camp. You have no choice. No say. No power.

13 July 2009

Uncle Arthur Died Last Week

Uncle Arthur died last week. He wasn't my uncle, but the uncle of my friend Heather. I first met Uncle Arthur at a family funeral a few years ago, that of Heather's mum, Arthur's sister. I was in the area on business, got the message that Heather's mum had died, so changed my plans and drove north from Wellington to Palmerston North to be with her.

They just enveloped me in with the family during the events, including a small family dinner gathered round Uncle Arthur's table. I was seated next to my host, though it was his lovely wife and daughter who were really providing the meal. A look at Heather and the others told me they'd intentionally seated me there as they waited to see what would unfold.

Meat & veggies were passed around. Glasses filled and forks made the journey from plate to mouth all round the table. The snippets of the conversation that I remember best went something like this.

"You're American."
"Yes," I said.
"Humph. Don't like Americans."
"Really? Why?" I asked, seated at his table.
"You know I was in the war? Stationed overseas."
"Yes." I had seen photos of young Arthur and his friend in uniform, the one he'd helped get hitched to his sister. The result was a lifelong friendship between the two couples with many caravan trips and great memories, and, of course, my friend Heather.
"Ya know the worst thing about Americans?"
I waited looking at him expectatntly.
"While we were overseas fighting, they were called in to protect New Zealand. Churchill talked to Roosevelt and decided it made more sense than calling us home as the Americans were nearer when the threat was so great."
I waited appreciating a history lesson from a man who had lived it.
"We'd probably all be speaking Japanese today if not for your lot."
I waited.
"The worst thing though, was that all those Yanks in uniform, strutting about, had nylons and chocolate and stuff and with 'em they stole the hearts of the Kiwi girls. They took all the prettiest girls home with 'em when they went!"
If I could describe the indignation on the face of Heather's old auntie!
"And what about me, ya old . . . .?" she said.
"Oh, I had you sown up before I left," he answered confidently, maybe too confidently to this faithful woman, his wife of many many years.

The rest of the family of course was waiting with bated breath never knowing what Uncle Arthur might say next, and leaving me to be toyed with. I didn't mind being the entertainment after a stressful day of farewelling Heather's mum. Besides, Uncle Arthur was an old dear.
The rest of the family might not have thought so any longer, having heard all of his stories a few times too many and having to remind him of things he used to remember.

The old man asked me my opinion on a few things Kiwi and then we discussed America and it's role in history. The conversation ranged widely and was interesting to me.

When it was time to go the whole family was pleasantly amused when Uncle Arthur kissed me on the cheek, respectfully and affectionately. I'd won him over, regardless of the behaviour of those debonair Yanks in uniform years before I was even born!

So when Heather told me on Sunday that Uncle Arthur had died, I felt a loss. Oh, the stories that went with him; stories of war, of projects with his brother-in-law, of trips and laughter and love.

The American invasion of NZ

At any one time between June 1942 and mid-1944 there were between 15,000 and 45,000 American servicemen in camp in New Zealand. For both visitor and host it was an intriguing experience with much of the quality of a Hollywood fantasy. The American soldier found himself 'deep in the heart of the South Seas', in the words of his army-issued pocket guide. He was in a land of tree-ferns and semi-tropical 'jungle'. He usually came either before or immediately after the horror of war on a Pacific island, and he found a land of milk and honey (literally), of caring mothers and 'pretty girls'.

For the host people, just struggling out of a depression and now nearly three years into the anxieties and deprivation of war, the arrival of thousands of well-fed young Americans with smiles on their faces, charm in their hearts and money in their pockets was a Hollywood romance come briefly to life. New Zealanders too have recalled the experience in novels and a television drama.

What gave the encounter its special romance was that the two peoples were sufficiently similar to communicate, but sufficiently different to find each other intriguing. Both were a former colonial people with a frontier past. Both believed in democracy and civil liberty, and the capitalist way of life. Most people in both countries used English as their mother tongue. And from December 1941 the similarities became even stronger as the two peoples, each with a Pacific coastline, found themselves at war with Japan.

Yet in the early 1940s there were also significant differences. The United States was a large and confident society of more than 130 million people, many of whom, a generation before, had been slum-dwellers or peasants in Europe. New Zealand by contrast was a small, isolated country with 1.6 million inhabitants, about the population of Detroit, Michigan. It remained in many ways colonial in outlook, a Britain of the South which had some difficulty convincing the new arrivals that it was not ruled by Winston Churchill.

So the 'American invasion' (as New Zealanders affectionately called the event) brought a considerable clash of cultures. Though Kiwi and Yankee spoke the same language, they did so with different accents. Though they shared a fondness for owning cars, they drove on different sides of the road.

The Troops Arrive The invasion began in Auckland on 12 June 1942 when five transport ships carrying soldiers of the US army (or 'doughboys' as they were called) sailed into the harbour. Two days later marines (or 'leathernecks') landed in Wellington. They had arrived as a result of the outbreak of war in the Pacific six months before. From the New Zealand perspective the Americans strengthened New Zealand's defences against possible Japanese attack; while the Americans saw New Zealand as a valuable source of supply and a staging post for operations against the Japanese in the Pacific.

For Aucklanders, the invasion began on a wintry Friday afternoon, 12 June 1942. The skies were grey, the water the colour of steel, as five transport ships, with a cruiser in front and a destroyer in the rear, sailed into Auckland harbour unannounced. The next morning the Mayor of Auckland, J.A.C. Allum, and four military bands stood on Prince's Wharf waiting to greet the new arrivals. They played appropriate pieces -'The Stars and Stripes Forever', 'Colonel Bogey' - and were quickly answered by wide-mouthed sousaphones on board ship playing 'Roll Out the Barrel'. Local ferries blared their horns, passengers waved; the Americans, nurses in blue, soldiers in olive-green, cheered and crammed the cityside of one transport so tightly that the ship listed heavily.

As they berthed another interesting exchange occurred. The Americans threw down oranges, cigarettes and money; the waiting Kiwis picked up the gifts and threw back New Zealand coins. Some of the visitors wondered where they were, but an American on the wharf, one of the advance guard, gave them all the information they needed to know: 'No Scotch, two per cent beer, but nice folks.' Some evidently did know what country they had reached, for the first of the newcomers to land on New Zealand soil was Sergeant Nathan E. Cook, chosen in commemoration of the explorer Captain James Cook. It was some hours before all his comrades of 145 Regiment of the 37th US Army Division were marched off to the railway station and to camp.

Read more from NZ History Net.

Why did they come? It was the dramatic spread of war to the Pacific some six months earlier which had brought about the first substantial landing of foreign troops in New Zealand since British regiments had left in the 1860s.

On 7 December 1941 Japanese bombers had crippled the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu. If New Zealanders felt vaguely thankful that the Americans were now involved in the war, their confidence was quickly shaken. Within days British naval strength, for so long New Zealand's surest bastion, was shown to be vulnerable. The warships Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk by Japanese torpedoes. By Christmas Day Hong Kong had fallen; and then on 15 February Singapore surrendered. Four days later Darwin was bombed. Some New Zealanders became alarmed that Auckland might be next.

The Prime Minister, Peter Fraser, appealed to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for assistance in strengthening New Zealand's defence, making the point that with war in the Pacific New Zealand could become a main base area. Churchill was in no position to help, but he was sympathetic to Fraser's plea. There was the obvious option of withdrawing the New Zealand Division from the Middle East to defend the homeland as the Australians had done. But the war in the Middle East was delicately balanced, and the New Zealand troops had been trained to fight there. To withdraw them would be time-consuming and costly in terms of shipping. So on 5 March Churchill asked Roosevelt to send a division to New Zealand on the condition that the New Zealanders remained in Egypt. Roosevelt agreed, and on 24 March cabled that 'we are straining every effort' to send forces at the earliest moment.

12 July 2009

Preparing for a 3 month journey

I'm packing for three month journey. Suitcase is out. Piles near it are growing. TO DO lists are working.

Do I think of it as an absence or as a trip? I seem to be switching gears between thinking of what I'll need as I go and what I need to set in place for while I'm gone.

What about the plants? Gotta call what's-her-name! Are all library books returned? Is the car okay to sit idle?

The banking accounts? Yes, I can do things online, but it's good to have it all sorted as I'll have little routine on the road.

Do I have the computer backed up and all info at hand? Print out those flight numbers and phone numbers. Registered for the conference over there? Yep. What of the one here in November? Sorted.

What am I taking for gifts? Tea is good for some. Chocolate biscuits for others. Keychains, t-shirts, hats . . . .

Go with two bags? But I only need one. Will need another for the trip back as I'll do some shopping. Do I have to pay for bags? On the internal US flights, yes. Thus the cheaper fares. Take snacks for the flights otherwise the next story will be Hungry Over America.
Packing checklist

11 July 2009

Please don't eat the super glue!

Had some interesting conversations over dinner tonight.
I say "over dinner" as it was cooked in front of us at a Japanese restaurant not far from my house. The sizzling teppan turned the onions soft and sweet, the prawns crispy and hot, and everything else just yummy. There was even a Yum Yum sauce! Miso soup, salad, ginger & mustard sauces, ending with green tea . . . . ahhh.

Conversation? Imagine 6 women discussing flying lessons, seeking porpoises to swim with, dogs and their antics, etc. Much of it was too funny. The dog that chewed up the super glue tube is okay, just a little pucker that won't go away right away. Imagine the story though, the telling of it with hands flying and facial expressions and the whole picture of two women wrestling a boxer to get the tube before she glued her lips to her teeth to her tongue and then gummed up her innerds!

We were a varied lot; kiwis and two Americans, amongst us a jeweler, a sign writer and four of us in helping professions. There were stories, much laughter, discussions of future adventures involving snow skiing, sedate rail trail cycling trip and the Wanganui River canoe trip we hope to do when it warms up. We spoke of fishing from a kayak, flying lessons and geocaching, each adventure activity fraught with potential danger and humour!

All of this over a yummy meal after a day of celebrating a 36th birthday. No, not mine. That would been a few years ago. Okay, more than a few years ago.

It's good to celebrate friendship and birthdays. It's good to laugh together, especially when it is at no one's expense. It's good to go back to memories and to create new ones. Mixing old friends and new ones doesn't always work, but it's sure fun when it does work and everyone has a good time.

See super glue for wound repair here.

10 July 2009

Communities of Faith

"Communities of faith and churches are called to be centres of discipleship and mission. They are meant to be multi-voiced worshipping communities, places of friendship and accountability, living in God’s kingdom in active anticipation of it’s coming in full. Young and old are valued, consultative leadership is exercised, and roles are related to gifts rather than gender."

Prodigal Kiwi(s) Blog posted by Don Sewell

Dagwood Oreo?

For Ashleigh.

Care to caption, anyone?

09 July 2009

How to get in?

As I came through the Customs process at Auckland International Airport, the official saw that I had written CHAPLAIN in the EMPLOYMENT field on the form. Immediately, without preamble or hesitation, she said, "I need to go to church more."

After a day of airports and a long flight, I wasn't quite ready for this, but went with the conversation as she started it.

"Why would you want to do that?" I asked.
"Well, I know I should," she said.
"If it is out of your love for Jesus, then by all means. If it is out of a legalistic obligation that will make you think you are earning enough points or ticking all the right boxes, don't bother." Her surprised look made me continue. "It's about Jesus. If what you do flows from your relationship with Him, then it will be satisfying and have meaning. If it is about 'shoulds and oughts' then that is religion and quite a hard burden to carry."

"Oh! Thanks for that. I suppose you're right. Welcome home!" she said with a smile as she stamped my passport and handed it back.

I went through to collect my bags.

08 July 2009

Unfortunate Naming Of Virus

Uhm, captions, please.

Where do you get your news?

In a recent conversation with friends from several different countries, I lamented that fact that local newspapers in my home state in the US had little international news content. A follow-up comment from a friend suggested that the same was true here in Auckland. Not seeing quite the comparison, I asked her where she went for her international coverage. She, and others in the conversation, said they went to the webpages of the major broadcaster in their country of origin.

In teasing this out a bit, and in ruminations thereafter, we've decided that we are often more comfortable with news presented in tandem with our own worldview. We are interested in and process news as it pertains to us. Might be an obvious conclusion to make, but it is interesting, I think.

Expatriates often seek out familiar sources for news, subliminally choosing an ethnocentric filter through which they'll receive and process input. That is why so many international websites offer personalised search features. I can search primarily through New Zealand specific Google.co.nz or in the larger pool of Google.com. That s why the BBC offers an international version of it's site.

When I lived in Africa I was very dependent on the BBC for a version of the international news that was not filtered through the Zimbabwean censors or agenda. In the last few years, Zimbabweans have been even more desperate to hear news that was balanced and not driven by the politics of that country.

In countries where the press is either a tool of or heavily censored by the government, people have often sought news from "outside".

Where do you get most of your news? If you live close to "home" you may not need to choose your path to news. If you live in a different cultural context or in a multi-cultural city, your choices will be many and varied. How do you decide what to read or listen to in this info overload era?

Check out World Newspapers to feed your selective info cravings.

07 July 2009

Jesus Painter

Mike Lewis paints large portraits of Christ in under twenty minutes.

It began when his close friend, Christian songwriter Seth Haines, told him that he had written a song called "Intimate Portrait" and wanted Mike to paint a portrait of Christ on stage during the song. Although Mike was in art school, he had never really painted before. The request was actually rather unreasonable in terms of possibility. Seth wanted a portrait large enough for an entire audience to see and also a likeness to Christ painted in seven minutes. Artists will tell you that usually portraits are very time consuming and some spend years on a single piece. Intimidated by the request but challenged by God Mike decided to trust him and began planning for the painting. After several months of thought and preparation the night arrived. Mike did not have the available funds to do a practice painting so the first try was live on stage. After a short prayer with his friend Mark Herrera that whatever happened God would be glorified through the artwork he walked to the stage and began to paint. Mike says that immediately everything disappeared except the canvas. He has described it as his most peaceful personal time with Christ. He began to swirl colors from the entire spectrum into the face of Christ, then at the end of the painting when the face was recognizable he began to throw blood (red paint) right in Jesus' face. This can be painful to watch but we need to realize that we are responsible for the blood that he shed.

Networking Adds Value For All

A network is not a mine from which you remove everything of value.
It is more a rich soil of potential which must be cared for.

In the past, movers and shakers went to events to collect as many business cards as possible so they could follow up later, squeezing potential business out of those connections. Business card filing systems were available and people carried vinyl folders full of those cards with them as a personal directory. Then we started scanning them in so as to have electronic versions.

Now we have Facebook & Twitter and "she who has the most friends or followers wins!

Thought Leader's originator, Matt Church writes on quality networks:

It is no longer enough to be the most connected person in your field. The data deluge and information overload we all experience has increased the demand for quality. I have no idea what the future of FaceBook or Twitter is, or even what's around the corner. What I do know is this… a quality network is more valuable than a large one over the long term.

When I created Thought Leaders in 2001, it was driven by a double need. Firstly, the need to improve the quality of my thinking and secondly, to improve the quality of my connections. Henry Ford said that you should surround yourself with people smarter than you and get out of their way. This has certainly been my experience. Indeed the quality of my network is directly proportional to my personal growth. Better thinking leads to better conversations. From there, anything is possible.

Here are some ideas for building a quality network...

  • Meet with people live
  • Present at gatherings
  • Hand write notes
  • Care a bit about their world
  • Grow and learn
  • Meet and share
  • Discuss ideas not people
  • Be your best value in the relationship
  • Stay in touch
Quality networking is about who you're talking to and more importantly, what you are talking about. Network with intent. Hang out with smart people. Add enormous value to the conversation and their world. It's not just who you know that‘s important anymore, it's also what they know. It's the convergence of networks and knowledge that matter now. - Matt Church
Networking is a vital component of life, no matter what you may call it. My brother has a network of guys he can call on when he needs a part for a car he's restoring or a job for a friend. My dad has traded favours for years and everyone is richer for the give and take of help, advice or an extra hand in the job. My friends in education and ministry value the open door to colleagues in other organisations with whom they can swap ideas, contacts, experience and advice. I know business people who know just who to call for input or involvement in new initiatives.
Remember stories of women gathering at the well or men round
the fire or at the pub? Forms of primitive networking, I'd say.

One of the keys to growing and maintaining a healthy network is that, in the give and take of it all, everyone has a sense of value. If you ask more than you give, you might find the calls are no longer answered or returned. A network is not a mine from which you remove everything of value. It is more a rich soil of potential which must be cared for.

If Facebook & Twitter are social networking, what would we call
life enriching networking for the exchange of ideas, value and justice?

06 July 2009

Caption Challenge #7

Whaddaya think?

05 July 2009

The Conjuror's Bird reviewed

My book club recently met to discuss Martin Davies' The Conjuror's Bird, a historical fiction version of discovery in different centuries. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I had no quotes to share or new vocabulary to tuck away.

Poignant & beguiling

I found it in my local library here in Auckland, though I'd have been happy to have paid for such a good tale. Since then, I've started another of Davies' novels, again from the library.

I found the overriding themes of The Conjuror's Bird to be of identity and social constraints, though the first line might put some people off: " Thursday evening I was working late, removing the skull of a dead owl"

Are we what we do? Are we who we're married to, or not married to? Are we our gender? Are we who we are expected to be? What binds us and keep us from accomplishing, from doing, from exploring, from pursuing our passion?

I thoroughly recommend this as an easy read with value and thought provoking content.

The Independent reviewed it thus:

Natural history resonates with the romance of the lost: the quasi-fantastical dodo, or the Congo peacock, a single feather of which was discovered many years before the bird. Yet the Lost Bird of Ulieta, a dun-coloured tweeter, was in some ways most mysterious of all. Recorded in 1774 by Captain Cook's expedition to the South Seas, it was known from a single stuffed specimen brought back by the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, who accompanied Cook.

But a few years later it disappeared from Banks's collection and has never been seen again. The specimen would be of immense value if traced, especially now there is the real prospect of recreating an extinct species through DNA.

Martin Davies has discovered another real-life mystery in Banks's biography. Shortly before Banks's encounter with the Lost Bird, he broke off an engagement and began an affair with an unknown woman, who appeared briefly, dressed in male clothing, awaiting Banks in Madeira. He never arrived, having cancelled his second expedition with Cook. The woman is known to history only as "Miss B".

In this novel, Davies has created two gripping, intercut narratives. The story of Fitz, a modern biologist turned taxidermist sleuthing on the trail of the bird, is entwined with that of Banks's love affair, and how the specimen came to leave his collection. The prose of the 18th-century narrative is unstodgily rendered, and Davies writes with a lyricism that captures the joy of the natural world.

The modern story is more of a chase. Fitz's ex-wife turns up with the offer of untold wealth if he can locate the bird: a billionaire collector is creating a DNA ark of lost creatures. A stray clue sets Fitz and his new girlfriend on the trail, which becomes a race against sinister characters.

Fitz ends up tracing a Lincolnshire family connected with Banks's shadowy mistress. Eventually, a tatty stuffed creature is discovered in a dusty glass case. Is it the lost specimen? And which will win out: venality or science?

04 July 2009

Foreigner: Real American

I've been a foreigner for many years now.
Being foreign can be exhausting.
My Zimbabwean driver's licence even lists me as an Alien.

As an outsider, I try to inform my self as to the history, the culture and the collective perspective of the country or culture within which I am living. I seek out things to celebrate about the culture, distinctives that might help me understand and appreciate it, individuals or accomplishments that standout.

It is rude to walk in to someone's home and point out all the flaws, the things you don't like, the things you might change. So it is with someone's country or culture. Listen, observe, learn. Sift out the good and the best and blow the chaff away, if at all possible. Then emphasis the commonalities, not the points of difference and get on with life!

I've been told that I'm not a real American.
The source of that opinion makes a big difference as to how I accept it. I was once told I was not a real American by a boy I had hosted here in NZ. He was politically inclined though not broadminded. When challenged to explain, it came out that he didn't even vote in US elections! I make great efforts to participate by absentee ballot and yet here was this upstart telling me I wasn't a real American! It's a wonder I didn't throttle him across the dinner table!

I've also been told that by non-Americans. I think they meant it as a compliment, as in I wasn't like the stereotyped Americans that might be found in some movies; loud, know-it-alls, myopic and brash. Hmm. I can be loud, as can Kiwis and Aussies. I know what I know but think questions are much more valuable. Myopic? Nope, couldn't have survived if I stayed that way. Brash? Not if I can help it, tho I too often have an attitude to match the one with which I am faced. Jesus is no where near done with me! Phil 2:5

I have friends who first liked me because I was American and others who almost didn't even give me a chance because I was American. People around the world read the headlines, watch the TV shows and movies out of Hollywood and think that that is what all of America is. I try to explain that I had never even been to California before 1999 when I moved to NZ and CA was on the way! Most of what is seen on TV is entertainment for much of real America because it is novel, far removed from their everyday reality. It is exaggerated, sensationalised, glamourised. Most people don't want to watch a life like their own!

Yes, I'm an American and possibly more patriotic for having lived outside my home country for these many years than if I'd stayed home. I'm from the middle of the US, not too far North or too far South. Not East or West, but what is called the Mid-West. It was named thus by those in the East as the settlers pushed further West, seeking space, opportunity and land. One of my housemates is from the State of Washington. She sees nothing at all West about Indiana!

The fifty stars on the flag represent the fifty U.S. states
and the thirteen stripes represent the original thirteen colonies
that rebelled against the British Crown and became the first
states in the Union.

I have an accent that has been softened by years of living overseas as an expatriate, but it gives away my origins and I don't try to hide that. Funny thing is, when I'm in the US, people get confused and think I sound foreign. It might be as much the words I use or intonation as accent, but it means I'm somewhat foreign wherever I am.

I vote. That gives me the right to comment or complain, to feel like a participant in the shaping of the government. I don't have to like everything my government does or defend it in every case. I do have to defend the right to hold different opinions. Who, in which country, approves of every decision, action or stance of their government?

The 4th of July is on most calendars. It is a holiday only in one country. The rest of the world gets up and gets on with their normal stuff on that day, whatever day of the week it falls on. [Same with Thanksgiving Day. It's just another Thursday in November to the rest of the world.]

Americans celebrate July 4th. Some have forgotten what they are celebrating. It's really not about the hot dogs, the fireworks or the festivals. It is about freedom, opportunity and justice.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

I have some theories on American patriotism. I'm not sure if they are valid or if they'll hold water at all. They are my theories based on my experience of living overseas most of these past 25 years. I'll see if I can articulate them in the days to come and will appreciate your constructive criticism as I attempt comparisons and analysis.

Identity Wisdom

“If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?”

Chuck Palahniuk, (American freelance Journalist, Satirist and Novelist. b.1961)

“The value of identity of course is that so often with it comes purpose.”
Richard R. Grant

Tell me whom you love and I will tell you who you are.

My mother said to me, "If you become a soldier, you'll be a general; if you become a monk, you'll end up as the Pope." Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.
Pablo Picasso

All the world is a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and entrances;
Each man in his time plays many parts.
William Shakespear