Monday, May 24, 2010

3 Books, 1 Week

In light of some down time, I've found myself reading lots this last week... and consequently have 3 books to review.

First, In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan. This book was just what I was looking for in my (previously blogged about) effort to shake up my food patterns. I learned a lot of undesirable information about the modern food industry. And I am letting all the bad news simmer in my mind and hopefully redirect some of my choices. Things like... the way we commercially grow plants now has even affected the end product by taking out "nutrients" that have things the food industry doesn't want and injecting "nutrients" they want to increase. All in all, it affects the overall product, even of something you think is unchangeable-- like produce. "...You now have to eat three apples to get the same amount of iron as you have gotten from a single 1940 apple." (p. 118) Although really technical and prone to over-informing, this book was super helpful for me to learn how to navigate the modern food industry and the choices we now have in our supermarket.

Next, Under the Overpass, by Mike Yankoski. I randomly stumbled onto this book when looking for resources to learn about homelessness and social support systems affecting the poor. It just popped up in a Barnes & Noble search and caught my eye. What drew my attention was that it was written by a Christian man who set out to live on the streets, (with the homeless as one of their own) in 6 different American cities to see not only what life was like but also what social services (and churches in particular) were doing (or not doing) to impact the homeless community. The author wanted to experience it all while looking through the lens of his faith. It was certainly an interesting perspective and premise. As his journey unfolded, I was both moved by & found myself mourning for the church & its people-- at its triumphs & failings in loving the poor and treating people with compassion.

Finally, Tea with Hezbollah, by Carl Medearis & Ted Dekker. I recently heard Carl speak at a conference in Austin and he mentioned this latest book. His verbal description was so normal-person-thought-process-spoken-out-loud that is just caught my attention. He said something like: you know how the Bible says we are to love our neighbor? and goes further even to say, we should love our enemies? that that's Jesus' commands for his followers? well, I thought- in order to love our enemies we need to go and actually meet them, get to know them. so we set out to do just that. we traveled to the Middle East and sat down with some of the "bad guys" (from America's perspective) and just wanted to see what would happen... wanted to learn about them as people. in hopes that we could tell all you, and that it would help you love them as Christ loves them. That's all he said. And I bought it... and the book... and have really enjoyed just reading their travelogue of what it was like to visit some of my absolute favorite places in the world (the Middle East) and sit down with some of the most intimidating men of power and ask: "when was the last time you cried?" and "what makes you laugh?" The authors humanized these men for their readers. And that goes a long way in softening our hard hearts toward the call to love our enemies.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

10 Things the Internet Has Killed or Ruined (and 5 Things It Hasn't)

A few weeks ago, the Jeff Ward show on 590AM had a discussion about an article put out by PC World called: "10 Things the Internet Has Killed or Ruined (and 5 Things It Hasn't)". He kept his listeners hanging, only revealing one thing from the list every 20 minutes or so while he opened the floor for discussion. He asked his audience: 1) can you guess what's on this list? and/or 2) what would you put on this list?

So, I pose the same questions to you... What would your top 10 list/5 list include? Here is what I would say:

ANNA's 10 things the internet has killed or ruined? (I made my lists before reading PC World's)
  1. snail mail (you know with stamps and a postman) and the art of writing letters.
  2. the technical quality of songs (because the computer speakers and the downloadable sizes-- totally an answer influenced by being married to a musician).
  3. albums (along the same lines as above, but now you can just buy 1 song and not an entire artist's album-- kinda ruins the art of it all).
  4. innocence of children (because such young kids can easily access stuff like porn or ganster rap, etc-- as witnessed by my own 5th grade nephew).
  5. attention spans.
  6. morality (can you say: overabundance of porn?).
  7. patience (we can get instant info online at any time).
  8. privacy (I realize the argument could be made that you don't have to put all your info out there-- and you don't-- but there is still an abundance of info that YOU don't put out there that gets out there-- think tax assessments, think family trees, think photos your friends put of you online that you'd never have posted yourself, think registrations/affiliations...).
  9. trust in your research resources (you can find info that supports almost any claim and there is seemingly no way to tell if its bogus or legit).
  10. productivity at work (think about the amount of time you waste, at work, checking emails, shopping online, Facebooking, etc).
ANNA's 5 things (the internet) hasn't killed or ruined?
  1. "The Man" (who now simply tracks with more accuracy and depth your likes/dislikes based on what you surf online and through searching key words you type online or in emails).
  2. garage sales (I thought this would have gone-- but nope, we've just added extra mini-garage sales through craigslist/ebay).
  3. shopping (especially in niche products, which apart from the internet would have been more hard to come by).
  4. competitive pricing (now that you can cross-reference, say, flights from every airline all on one site, you truly can get great deals).
  5. celebrity (in fact the internet has broadened the definition of who could be "famous"-- think followers, # of site hits, # of downloads, youtube, etc)
To read PC World's opinion of the Top 10/Top 5 List, CLICK HERE. But try to make your own list first and see how well you do. :)

And I'd love to hear your lists-- post em in my comments. Or comment on my lists...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Book Review: Son of Hamas

Up until a few years ago, I didn't know much at all about the conflict that exists between Israel and Palestine. When I ever heard a news story about the "Middle East Crisis" or "Middle East Peace Process" (and usually in reference to the peace process being unsuccessful), its not that I'd tune out, but I just didn't understand it. In 2007, Andy & I traveled to Israel to tour the Biblical sites in the area and it was at that time that I actually started to grasp it all.

In our hotel there was a map of what I'd always known as "Israel", but it was divided in to sections and color coded. When I asked the front desk what did that all mean, I got my first real understanding of the Palestinian "Occupied Territories". And as I wandered the streets of Jerusalem, I noticed military personnel everywhere-- all carrying giant guns-- but from two distinct groups. A blue uniform for Palestinian military, and the traditional army green for Israeli forces. They coexisted on the streets, with their guns. It was strange to say the least.

One of our travel agendas was to pass into Bethlehem to tour the church built on top of the site where (supposedly) Mary gave birth to Christ. Our tour bus drove through the streets and eventually pulled up to a giant cement wall. We had to get off the bus and load onto another bus, trade in our Israeli tour guide & driver for Palestinian ones, and then drive through some heavy security to get to the other side of the wall. Once inside, the guide announced "Welcome to Palestine!" We has crossed into the Palestinian "West Bank."

Since that time, I have increasingly learned about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from my Arab friends. It is a very important issue to them-- Palestinian or not. And in their minds eye, all Americans and Westerners side with Israel. So, I have tried hard to learn as much as I can-- in an effort to understand my Arab friends, and to grow in compassion for all those affected (on both sides) by the suffering this "conflict" has caused.

So when my friend Angela heard about this new book, Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef, she recommended it to me. I gobbled up this book. It is a fast read, chalk full of information from a unique perspective. Yousef is the son of one of the leaders of Hamas (a Palestinian "party" for lack of a better word) who was, at one point, a revenge-seeking wannabe terrorist who survived Israeli prison and came out the other side to become one of the most valuable spies for Israel into the network of Hamas and other Palestinian parties. His account details his work for both sides of the conflict. It is gripping!

After finishing the book, I feel I have a better understanding of both sides. I have an increased compassion for those caught in the cross-fires of what I think is a impossible-to-win (for either side) war. And I heard a beautiful testimony of learning from the teachings of Jesus-- to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. This is a fabulous book that I'd recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about one of our generations most heated, and ongoing conflicts.

Click here to buy the book on Amazon.

Before & After: Haiti Kids

I got to see some updated photos of the kids I fell in love with while in Haiti. It is so good to see the transformation, and I thought yall would like to see the progress too!
KATIANA before...
KATIANA now...
Here is Katiana, who lost her parents and her arm and had a broken leg. So beautiful and full of love. So sweet! Such joy!

EMANI before...
EMANI now...
This is Emani, who was in a full body cast while we were there. She is from Port au Prince, found abandoned in the street, and didn't know anyone when she first came to the orphanage. While we were there, we saw her surrounded by new friends, lots of smiles, and we watched the healing begin...

JOHNNY before...
and JOCELYN before...
Here is Jocelyn, who was caught in the rubble in his house when he went back to save his mom. He has been fit for a new leg and started walking. And Johnny next to him is the boy with a broken femur that wandered the streets of Port au Prince for 11 days until he was finally rescued and helped.

LONIQUE before...
LONIQUE now...
Here is Lonique, who had a full body cast and amputated arm. Now he can run and play, and there is life and joy in his eyes.

Help Refugee KIDS This Summer

Each summer, a local non-profit organization (Austin Area Interreligious Ministries) hosts a 6-week program for newly arrived refugee children to prepare them for their first experience with U.S. schools. When refugee children arrive here, they usually know no English and have different educational backgrounds. Some may have never attended school; others could have had their education interrupted year after year because of civil war. Nothing in their backgrounds prepares them for what it's like to be a student in the Austin Independent School District. From transportation, to proper behavior; from study skills, to computer literacy; from social interaction to attire - everything is confusing to a newly arrived refugee. And to complicate matters, they don't know enough English to ask questions.

The goal of AAIM's refugee youth summer program is to make the first year of school less intimidating for the refugee children who have come from very different educational environments. The children are taught by volunteer teams led by professional teachers with experience in teaching English as a Second Language. The curriculum stresses English, basic math and school skills, plus the program offers the children opportunities to learn more about Austin through some field trips.

Volunteer Needs...

• 10-15 adult volunteers a day for each week of the program.

• Adults with the availability and a heart to serve our local refugee population.

• Parents with teenage children, between 12 and 18, are welcome to participate together.

• High school students 16 or above may participate on their own after a one-on-one interview.

• Younger volunteers must have a parent or parent-approved adult volunteering at the same time.


• Youth Program runs from June 14-July 22, 2010

• The Volunteer Commitment is to serve a minimum of 1 week of the program's 6 weeks

• The Volunteers work Monday-Thursday from 9a-12p for the week they have committed to.

• The Youth Program is hosted at a downtown church.

• The Youth Program will host refugee children aged 6-18 from countries like Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Burma, Bhutan, Congo, Burundi, Somalia and Cuba.

• The Youth Program will likely have 50 children during the summer.

• Volunteer Training is Tues May 18th in the evening.

For more information or to volunteer, please email Lu (, or call 512-386-9145 X 12.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Look How Far Seed Effect Has Come!

Seed Effect posted a new report on their blog today about the latest stats & stories. They are 1/4 of the way to their goal to reach 400 families this year. Go read the update!

And before this good news, I had been all ready to inform my blog-followers that Seed Effect just arranged a new deal with Capital One credit cards to get a "return on your investment" with your purchases. Check out this blog post too... Andy & I are gonna apply and I think you should ALLLL get one! :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

What Is Church?

Africa Inland Mission's most recent newsletter has a great article in it that I wanted to share here. It describes the similar questions I've been asking a lot over the last year as I travel abroad...
"What is Church?" by John Becker

Have you ever asked the question, "What is church?"

Sofas and tables removed, a couple dozen friends and neighbors cram together on the carpeted floor. As the
tabla and dholaki drums begin to pound, the gathering sing "Khushi Khushi Manao," an Indian hymn calling the group to bolo bolo Masiha ki jai jai jai (sing your praises to Messiah with joy joy joy). After testimonies, some teaching and prayer, spicy aromas overwhelm the room as a colorful feast of curries and other delicacies is spread before the guests. Half at the satsang (spiritual gathering) were disciples of Jesus, the others were still following their Hindu, Sikh or Muslim faith-- but happy to join the celebration.

Is this church?

When a Muslim family chose to follow Jesus after watching the Jesus film, a local co-worker and I would meet in their home every week to teach the Bible and share fellowship together. It always involved a meal and prayer for each other. The gathering stated with five of us and quickly grew to eight as they shared their faith and invited the extended family. For various reasons, this family was not able to attend our conventional Sunday morning church service.

Is this church?

Thinking they were the only local followers of Jesus, the three Muslim background believers were hesitant to meet each other. But taking the risk, fears dissipated at the first meeting. Henceforth the three who had chosen to follow Isa al Masih (Jesus the Messiah) began to meet weekly in an olive grove outside the city walls. Each one in turn shared the Word. Then they prayed for and encouraged one another.

Is this church?

A few years ago I wouldn't have considered these "churches." I would beg to differ now. Let me explain.

...We are commissioned to "make disciples of all nations"-- not make churches of all nations. Everyone who places his/her faith in Jesus is a member of Christ's body, the universal Church. But in making disciples, the spirit-directed result is the gathering of these followers: the local church. But again, what ingredients make a church?

... A Somali nomad once said, "When you can put your church on the back of a camel, then I will think that Christianity is meant for us."

As a mission [organization] we concluded that church doesn't necessarily need four walls, a roof, and a pastor who has been to Bible School. So we set out to create a simpler definition of church:
a community of disciples who know and reflect their identity in Christ through corporate worship and mission. Is this the definitive definition of local church? Probably not. Is it simplistic? Maybe. But we believe it is packed with Biblical truth and it has helped to shed our cultural biases and rethink our traditions so that "church" formation and multiplication can be experienced in every culture.

Most of the remaining unreached people groups will not be reached with a conventional and traditional model of church... We encourage our missionaries to envision "church" through the lens of the people they are serving.