Friday, December 06, 2013
Yesterday, Nelson Mandela passed from this world to the next, and the world is brimming with tributes to his life and legacy. And there is good reason. Through his life, Madiba became a symbol of freedom, of forgiveness, and justice being lived out by a human being.
The first time I remember hearing about Nelson Mandela, I was in junior high school, and I saw a music video called "A.F.R.I.C.A." by a band called Stetsasonic. At the end of the video was a chant to "Free Nelson Mandela." While I was in high school, Mandela was released from prison. Unfortunately, in my teen years, I didn't know much about the life of Mandela. I couldn't do a google search or anything like that. But the idea of someone being in prison for trying to help people and end an injustice really bothered me. And the idea of striving to work to make the world a better place really inspired me. Thankfully I was not alone.
There are quite a few aspects of Mandela's life that have been inspiring for me to live to see, and if you were not privileged to listen to the Stetsasonic song I heard in the late 80s, or maybe, like so many of us, you have not been attuned to world events and leaders, you may have missed much of it and find yourself wondering about this man.
In the time since his imprisonment, he has been an example of radical forgiveness of his oppressors, and after his release from prison, he served as president of South Africa for a season and helped bring great unity to a nation torn by racial segregation. He became a modern example of the power of loving others, even our enemies, and the power of never giving up.
And, freed from his prison cell, he became a champion for justice. And one of the greatest injustices he saw in our world was the injustice of extreme poverty. As he spoke on London's Trafalgar Square in 2005, "Like slavery, and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings." Later in that same speech, he challenged his listeners to "Let their greatness blossom."
Around the time of this speech was the same season in my life that I was awakened to the issue of extreme poverty as the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time, and I also became burdened with the necessity that we become dedicated to seeing the end of it.
And as I write this morning, my resolve is hardened, and I find myself even more inspired to live a life filled with radical forgiveness, radical love, and a passionate pursuit of the end of extreme poverty. I hope you will join me in this pursuit and that each of us can honor the life and legacy of this incredible human being. May we be the great generation that sees the end of extreme poverty.
Rest in peace Nelson Mandela.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
So today is #GivingTuesday. Even thought I'm writing this toward the end of the day, I am thrilled by this idea. Giving Tuesday is a trend that started recently as more and more people were taking a look at the spending on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and feeling like a new trend needed to get started, a trend of giving back.
Today, literally thousands of nonprofits are encouraging people to volunteer, give, and serve as part of Giving Tuesday. Folks are looking for opportunities to help, to give back, and to make the world a little bit brighter during the holidays.
And Nuru is among those groups with something special happening. One of Nuru's donors stepped forward and committed $15,000 to match every donation we receive today. Right now we are $3,880 away from maximizing this match. I am daily blown away by the generosity of others that helps take Nuru's life changing programs to even more people. Will you help us close the gap by donating or sharing our latest video celebrating five amazing years and 30,000 changed lives through Nuru?
Thanks for reading, and thanks for being Nuru!
Monday, December 02, 2013
Well, it has been far too long since I have written, but today I am writing to share some incredible news and asking for your help. This year, Nuru International is celebrating 5 years since we started fighting extreme poverty. Five years ago, Nuru was an idea. But now, we are able to look back and see over 30,000 lives that have been changed because of that idea. And now the idea is becoming a movement.
Because of people like you, there are literally thousands of families in Kenya, and soon Ethiopia, who are beginning to lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Thank you for your willingness to believe in this idea and help Nuru bring lasting change in the lives of many.
And now, I want to ask for you to help us celebrate these last five years and help us bring Nuru's programs to even more people in 2014. Two donors have stepped forward to match every donation we receive this month up to $75,000. Will you make a financial contribution to Nuru? Will you take a minute and share this video and post on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, and whatever other social media you use? We want to invite even more people to join this movement to bring lasting change and end extreme poverty in our lifetime. We've got a challenging road ahead, but together, we can do this. Together, we can change lives. Together, we can be the generation that sees the end of extreme poverty!
Thanks for believing in this idea and contributing to it becoming a reality. It is inspiring to see what we have accomplished together during the last five years, but is even more invigorating to dream about what we will be able to do together in the future.
Thanks for being Nuru my friends!
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
So this is a first for me in many ways. This is the first time I have ever written a review of a cookbook, and furthermore, it's my first review of a dessert book. It is also my first review of a book by Faith Durand, executive editor of The Kitchn.
Faith has been a long time friend, and I was incredibly thankful that I purchased her first cookbook, Not Your Mother's Casseroles (I actually need to write a review of that one too). And when I found out she had written a book on desserts, I had to learn more.
Jamie and I strive not to eat a ton of sweets, and we don't like to encourage others to eat sweets either, but Faith's book is incredible, and if one can be disciplined enough to not make dessert into a meal, then this book is worth pursuing.
Since it is my first time writing a review of a cookbook, I should be fair and explain my rationale for the evaluation. I did not read through the instructions for every recipe. Instead, I looked at the variety of recipes, ingredients, and flavors available. And then I skimmed descriptors for this array of delicious treats. After this, I looked at how the author's personality and passion came through on the pages. I was impressed on all counts.
But then, the last screening was preparing a dessert for a gathering of a few friends. For that, I left it completely in the hands of my wife to choose a dessert, and to prepare it. After screening several, she landed on a dessert that reflected one of her great passions--ice cream--Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream, Bangkok Peanut Ice Cream to be exact. Jamie tested Faith's original recipe for no-bake Spicy Peanut And Toasted Coconut Cookies. Wow! The dessert was a delicious spicy, savory, and sweet treat. They were a hit at the gathering we attended, and I was thankfully able to snag a couple of these delicious treats.
If you are looking for a good book full of delicious bakeless treats, look no further than Bakeless Sweets. The book is colorful, well organized, filled with tons of original and classic treats, and a great way to prepare treats, especially when you don't want to heat up a house in the summer by baking in the oven. This is a fun book filled with quick-to-prepare recipes for the enjoyment of all.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
What prompted me to first start reading the book Habit by Charles Duhigg was it’s billing as a way to explore how habits are created and ended and what the roots of our habits are. Just like many others in our world, I was interested in making the most of my time and getting rid of habits that were not allowing me to live life to the fullest. At the same time, I wanted to introduce some positive habits into my life that would help me become a better version of myself.
When I started reading the book, I began wondering if this was the right book for this exploration. The opening pages of the book use examples from the medical community (and actually there are examples laced throughout the book) where individuals have had traumatic brain injuries or surgeries that took away their memory, but yet they were still able to maintain habits that they had developed over their lifetime. Beyond that, the book also discussed individuals who had turned their lives around and inserted good habits in the place of bad habits.
I felt like this book was a good complement to the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath. Dan and Chip Heath talk about the art of making change when change is hard. Charles Duhigg shares an array of examples that reflect how habits are formed, how they can be changed, and even how movements are formed.
One of the big epiphanies for me was found in the appendix. Duhigg gives a concise synopsis of how to identify the craves associated with habits so that those habits can be reshaped. The basic framework is to identify a routine. A routine usually consists of a cue and a reward. For instance, Duhigg suggests that maybe a routine of stopping by the snack machine at work may not be because one is hungry. Maybe the cue is needing to connect with others, the reward is connecting with others, but the routine is buying a snack. It is hard to identify what the reward is though, because one might believe that the reward is the snack, so Duhigg suggests experimenting with rewards to find out what one is seeking. Then he suggests isolating the cue. Cues typically fall into one of five categories.
- emotional state
- other people
- immediately preceding action.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
A few weeks ago, I picked up Rob Bell’s latest book, What WeTalk About When We Talk About God. For those unaware, Bell’s credibility in the faith community came under fire from his last book Love Wins and personally, I was curious what he might have to say in his latest book. Would it be a defense of previous writings? Would it be an attempt to win back the favor of his critics? Would it be perceived as an even greater deviation from orthodoxy within the Christian faith?
The book was actually very different indeed. It seemed like a book written to a very wide audience, from the deeply religious to the deeply irreligious. I’m sure it will have its share of critiques, but as I read it, I found it to be an intriguing unpacking of language often used when talking about God, and how two people can quite easily talk right past each other and miss out on common ground and perspective.
The book starts in an interesting place. It starts with a dialogue about subatomic particles and principles of physics that are observable and yet unexplainable. For instance the electron. We rely on the movement of electrons daily. In fact I wouldn’t be able to write this post without borrowing some electrons to power my computer. And yet, the best model for electrons around the nucleus of an atom relies on a prediction of where the electron might be at any point in time. It’s almost like it is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. This is a hard concept to explain or understand, and yet, again, we rely on the movement of electrons to power our devices.
The book moves from multiple examples where people speak past each other when it comes to the subject of spirituality, and then as the book progresses, Bell introduces Jesus in a fresh way to the reader. The book is a very quick read, and I’m sure it will have its share of critics, but after reading it, I would love to introduce it to friends from various faith backgrounds and perspectives as I believe it would be a wonderful starting point for conversations. I would recommend this book to people who are interested in exploring the subject of spirituality and how many people talk about God in the West.
Tuesday, August 06, 2013
Well, the last several weeks have been a whirlwind for Jamie and myself, and that has brought my blogging exploits to a standstill. I can think of no better way to get back in the groove than to write a review of one of my most recent reads, Strangers and Aliens by Trey Dunham.
Trey’s book is an interesting new approach and genre for writing. It’s a Bible commentary but it’s not like most commentaries. In the author’s words, it is an anecdotal bible commentary for people who do not like commentaries. It bounces back and forth between personal stories and reflections on the book of 1 Peter. In some ways the book is reminiscent of the NT Wright “For Everyone” series of commentaries in its use of personal story and experience as a way of understanding the context of bible passages.
Trey’s book is deviates from NT Wright’s commentaries in a number of ways. Trey is not, and does not attempt to position himself as a theologian. Strangers and Aliens as a whole walks through a myriad of life experiences for the author that show the uniqueness of individual stories and how scriptures can be a lens for understanding and unpacking one’s experiences. If someone is looking for a commentary or text with a high theology, this is probably not the book for them.
On the other hand, Trey’s book is a wonderful series of often funny reflections on how one’s life experiences can often be illustrations of timeless truths. Strangers and Aliens is sincere, heartfelt, and hilarious. If it were not categorized as a commentary, it might read as a wonderful series of short stories as the author reflects on his upbringing, life experiences, travels, and opportunities to strive to live faithfully to the Biblical text.
At its price, this book is a bargain, and for the time it takes to read it, it is a fun journey. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a book from an author who is willing to not take himself too seriously, and I am hopeful that Mr. Dunham will engage readers with future anecdotal commentaries.