Wrapping Up the Week 3.9.13

Boston’s unexpected foot of snow has now been replaced with bright sunshine. It’s remarkable really – for three days we braved treacherous roads, high wind, and blowing snow – and today? The sun is bright and it’s expected to reach the mid forties. It is so much like other areas of life, where stress and worry blow in and take over, covering everything around — you think it will never end. And then it does. And you shake your head with a bit of a smile as the tension leaves your back and your face and, holding yourself straighter, you walk forward.

On to the week wrap-up.

On online criticism: Our online behavior when it comes to getting involved in issues we care about is nothing short than a mob mentality. We find those who think like we do and we join forces with loud opinions through 140 characters, with long blog posts, and short Facebook insults. While the article I’ve linked to is specific to one author and a new book that is being released, the advice in the article is excellent. In short he says and I paraphrase: Calm down, Read first, understand the other guy, cling to what is good. The entire article is excellent but my favorite line is this:

“Criticism Is Not Inherently Narrow-minded Oppression”

I would urge all to read and then share this article – it’s full of wisdom and sound advice. So Rob Bell Wrote Another Book – Some Thoughts Before Actually Reading It – Take a look and let us know what you think!

On Poetry and Women: Mirman Baheer is a woman’s literary society in Kabul. It serves as a way for women to come together and recite poetry, often poetry that they have written, as well as talk about literature. The rural areas of Afghanistan are far stricter when it comes to women and poetry, in fact, women risk their lives to call in to Mirman Baheer and recite their poetry so it can be transcribed. The article here is a long one but will take you to the rural areas of Afghanistan where young women are taken out of school and find writing poetry to be their only form of education. You will be introduced  to some brave artist poets who risk their lives for the love of poetry. Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry was published this week in the NY Times. Along with that comes an article on the power of poetry from Christianity Today. The author compares this love and commitment to poetry to our apathy of poetry. “We seem, sadly, to have lost an understanding of poetry’s beauty and power.” she says in Have we forgotten the power of poetry? I would love to hear what you think – do you like poetry? Understand it? Read it? Would you risk your life for poetry?

IMG_5065On International Women’s Day: Yesterday held news from Around the world for International Women’s Day. While I’m glad we have a day set aside, I feel a bit skeptical as I see all this news, and know that a day later much will be forgotten. I do want to highlight two articles – One is an article of hope that takes a look at the difference mothers can make in the nutrition of their children. Mother’s Rewriting the Future will take you to Kenya and give you a glimpse of one woman’s life. The other is from Djibouti Jones where the author Rachel encourages us to think about this every day – not just one day a year. She gives us 5 Ways to Celebrate International Women’s Day. Rachel is also doing a series on Hijab that you don’t want to miss. I’ll be linking to more on that series next week.

Also on International Women’s Day – have you yet read about My Favorite Feminist? Take a look at this remarkable woman!

On my bedside stand: I’ve almost finished Beyond the Beautiful Forevers – a hard, beautiful read. There is no doubt that the author is skilled with words – but I actually want Robynn to read it and do the review – as someone who has lived in India for a long time and been intimately involved in the lives of many, I think she is the one to respond. Of course – this is the first she’s heard of this …..! I’ve also begun a small book by Frederica Matthewes-Green called The Jesus Prayer. This is a simple prayer that was passed on through the ages by the desert fathers “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on Me”. It was passed on as a way to practice being continually in prayer. Partly devotional, partly historical it is opening my eyes to the power of these words.

How about you? What are you reading? What has caught your eye through the week? 


Wrapping Up the Week 2.16.13

The snow that wrapped up this city and left us a paralyzed package with a big frozen bow at the top is down to a mere pile and a slush. It’s amazing that one week ago we never thought we would dig out of our piles. Warmer temperatures hit the greater Boston area and we are basking in sunshine and mid 40’s. Other than the fact that the snow left on the ground is ugly brown and grey streaked, the warm weather is welcome!

On to the wrap-up.

Miami Herald, Afghan Women March Against ViolenceOn Afghanistan and Women: On Valentine’s Day in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, activists held a march protesting violence against women. Afghan men and women are speaking out, openly and loudly, to call for an end to violence and abuse. Read about the march in the article “Afghan Women March Against Violence” published in the Miami Herald. It’s a great reminder that lasting change happens from within.

On Street Kids in Karachi: Pakistan has one of the world’s largest populations of street kids. It’s throat catching tragic – but like so many things, there are whispers of redemption in the middle of horrible situations. This whisper of redemption is through a Street Kids World Cup soccer match. It’s an amazing endeavor and I’m so glad to know about it. Take a look at this article “Saving Karachi’s Street Children One Goal at a Time”. It is inspirational and educational.

“Finally, there was an arena that provided a clean slate for these children, where their worth was not dependent on what was in their pockets or whether they sold their bodies” ~ from the article.

On White Privilege: I don’t usually get into this topic – it’s too big, too complicated, too defeating. But having our oldest daughter with us for a couple of months is challenging me to look harder at some of the things I just brush off and don’t think about. My challenge this week came through an article that looks at the movie The Impossible. I am sure that this movie is amazing, and Naomi Watts has proven herself once more by being nominated for an Oscar for her role in this film. But – and this is a big but – isn’t it troubling that the film emerging about the Tsunami in 2004 that took thousands of lives, many of them children, most of them Asian, focuses on the survival of a white family? And the original family was Hispanic….! I know I’m posing a controversial opinion but I’d love for you to read this article called “Notes from the Margins: White People Problems” and see what you think. Weigh in through the comments or through the comments on the article itself.

On Making a Difference: Oh you will LOVE this website. Freerice.com is an organization that donates rice through World Food Programme to those in areas where hunger is rampant. But there’s a fun twist to their donation – they have you go into the site and answer questions – for every question you get correct, they donate 10 grains of rice. It doesn’t sound like much but through clicking through and answering questions correctly yesterday I ended up donating 660 grains of rice. It’s FUN! Try it today – if enough of you try it we can set up a Communicating Across Boundaries team.

On the Blog: Every day I’m reminded how amazing you all are – your comments are thoughtful, challenging, affirming and daily encourage. More and more comments have come on the post “‘Saudade’ – A Word for the Third Culture Kid.” If you get a chance – take a look. It’s amazing the responses that speak to belonging, memories, and loss.

On my Bedside Table: I took a break this week and did fun! I reread Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier – that quintessential mystery, romance novel that many of us read in high school. I was not disappointed.’

Where ever you are – whether Istanbul, Yemen, Cairo, the UK or anywhere else – have a great day! As always – thanks for reading.

A Late Night Response

I have just finished watching hours of commentary on the Middle East as I put final touches on a health presentation I am doing tomorrow. And I feel compelled to write.

An ambassador and other public service officers have been killed. It is a tragedy, and a condemned act of violence.

The last time an American ambassador was killed was in Kabul in 1978 — and I was in Kabul. As a senior in high school I had gone to Afghanistan on a school trip to participate in a Fine Arts festival at the American International School of Kabul. While there, the famous military coup transpired, paving the way for the Russian invasion in 1979. As an adult I now understand the diplomatic nightmare at play; not only did the foreign service personnel have to worry about their staff in Afghanistan, they had hundreds of added students and staff from international schools throughout Pakistan as well as from Delhi, India. It was an emergency, much like the current situation in Libya

And with this recent event there are a lot of voices, and so much opinion. Even as those in public service are mourned, politicians are using the grief for gain.

The stereotypes on both sides of the globe are reinforced. Over and over we see images of fires, riots, and demonstrations in Egypt,Yemen, and Libya. With Friday prayers, the worry is that violence will spread farther in the region.

And on this side of the globe the cries arise: “Jihadists” “Islamists” “Fanatics”. “They hate us” many say, fueling an already blazing fire of misunderstanding.

Yet, even as I am burdened and frustrated by an amateur film maker who, in making what sounds like a sub par film, has incited rage throughout the Muslim world, I support his right to do so.

Was it wise? No.

Was it correct? Probably not.

Was it his choice to do so? Absolutely.

That’s what we preach, that’s what we boast – that we live in a democracy that allows freedom of speech.

Over a year ago I wrote a post called “Protected Privilege, Awesome Responsibility”. And right now at 11pm, while watching CNN in a hotel bedroom in Lincoln, Nebraska thinking of my daughter, living just blocks from the American Embassy in Cairo, I looked back at what I wrote. I have posted an excerpt below. To understand the full context I have linked the post but even without that context the words below express my viewpoint.

Freedom of Speech. It is a privileged protection and an awesome responsibility. Only days before our neighborhood became the target for these messages, my husband and I had been at a lecture on the apostasy law in Pakistan. As I passed the signs I couldn’t help but think that the messengers have no clue what a privilege it is to live in a country that allows freedom of speech.  It was fully their right to be there and broadcast what I consider to be messages that are at best unwise and at worst vitriolic and hateful. No one would think to arrest them or charge them for breaking a law and this gift is not enjoyed world-wide.

And though I desperately want to rip the signs down shouting “You have no right to present God in this way” and let those around me know that this message is one of extremism and that the God I love walks among us, knows our hearts, and loves with a love that is deeper than deep, I respect freedom of speech. I know that the privileged protection of speech used on vans with venom also protects me. It protects outwardly through the law of the land, and it protects inwardly by challenging me to carefully weigh words and meaning so that I may not abuse this protection.  Freedom of speech is a gift to be used carefully and protected continually.

The incidents of the last few days are a compelling challenge to all of us who value our freedom of speech, and recognize its power and gifts, to use these gifts for building bridges; to commit to communicating across boundaries and being agents to heal the great divide.

The Way It Was – Afghanistan

“Never have we been more involved in a part of the world of which we are so misinformed” Dr. Diana Eck, Harvard University

Many assume that’s all Afghanistan has ever been — an ungovernable land where chaos is carved into the hills. Given the images people see on TV and the headlines written about Afghanistan over the past three decades of war, many conclude the country never made it out of the Middle Ages…But that is not the Afghanistan I remember.” ~ Mohammad Qayoumi, Foreign Policy Magazine

It has been almost a year since Foreign Policy Magazine published a photo essay called “Once Upon a Time in Afghanistan”. I discovered this piece only two weeks ago and looked through it twice, then a third time, finally a fourth in one sitting. The Afghanistan he writes about was the Afghanistan I knew as a child. The Afghanistan of my vacations and school events; home to my best friend from high school,Kabuli naan, and kebabs; a land of wild adventure and hospitality.

The first memory I have of Afghanistan is the summer of 1967. The exchange rate from dollars to afghani’s was excellent and afforded us a hotel, meals out, and trips to the countryside. All this was almost unheard of for our missionary family of 7. Memories verified by my mother include a large hotel room with 7 beds, dinner in a palace restaurant, the sweet smell of frangipani at night, and strawberries. Trips to the countryside were enjoyed with stops at roadside restaurants and talks with friendly, hospitable people along the way. Although I was too young to remember, my mom speaks of more freedom for women than the places she lived in Pakistan and a real sense of relaxation. In her words “Afghanistan was a real destination coming from Pakistan in those days!”

My last memory of Afghanistan was in the spring of 1978, the year I graduated from high school. That memory is a mixture of delight at a school trip across Pakistani borders, teenage angst and boyfriend woes, and a history-making military coup. I have not been back since that time.

The Afghanistan in the article is not the Afghanistan of the NY Times, or of the American military. It is not the Afghanistan that is debated, pitied and despised.  The author of the article, born and raised in Kabul until 1968 , tells of the country he remembers in the 1950’s and 1960’s through a photo essay.  Through old photographs a story emerges of a country where men and women held jobs and hope. Where women pursued careers as physicians, and education overall was valued. A country that had order, stability, and a future.

But don’t just read this post, go to the actual article and take a look.  The contrast between the Afghanistan of before and the Afghanistan of today will make you gasp, weep, and end with a prayer for hope and change.