31 March, 2011

Time Out

I will be gone until 13 April. At which time I will return with a new adventure and some new ponderings. 

Stay Tuned... 

22 March, 2011

The power of venting.

Pete Wilson wrote a blog this morning and it got me thinking. It was about a negative tweet he read. How many of us use our tweets or our facebook statues as platforms to say whatever we want about who/whatever we want? The problem is whether it's a company's reputation or a person's feelings, it will hurt someone. 

Pete summarizes his thoughts here:

There is an element of power in our words and it’s not accidental. Our Creator has shaped our hearts and souls to be impacted by the words of others.  It’s part of your design.
I’m not even going to pretend to understand this spiritual principle, but you certainly can’t ignore it. The words that come out of our mouth or through our typing fingers float through the air and land on souls impacting the course and direction of their life.
It’s a free country. I love that you can tweet whatever the heck you want to. Just don’t ever think that your words don’t have an impact.
They do.
And more than you could ever imagine. (site)

I know the sting of being a recipient of some fairly harsh tweets. Some people knew the person was talking about me, others did not - but I knew. I knew those hurtful words were directed at me. Words posted in anger, in needing to vent, in being mad at me... But the impact still lingers.

Tony Dungy (I wish I had the book with me) wrote about venting. It feels good for the moment, it gets the steam off, but then you are left with the wake.

The Bible talks about words said in anger, and the tongue being a mighty sword. Isn't that all tweets and status updates are? Instead of my venting or yelling about someone or something to ten of my friends, I can post it on my site and suddenly 1,000s of people can ready why I am mad at _______ or think the service at ____________ stinks.

It's not that you deny that your upset, you just don't say it! Dungy talks about keeping a cool head. Is yelling, screaming, venting, posting a spiteful tweet going to change anything? Probably not. It might just make everything a lot worse.

So take some time and let yourself cool down. If you still want to post about how mad you are then do it, but don't do anything in the moment you cannot honestly stand by the next day.

Trying to learn this lesson myself, I'll let you know how it goes.

15 March, 2011

Girls & Education

UNICEF estimates that 93 million children do not currently attend school.

Of that 93 million, 80% are girls.

The highest areas for this are sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia.

Overall, of children of the appropriate age, only 60% attend secondary school. In sub-Sahara Africa that number is 25% (link).

"(I)t is a fundamental human right enshrined in international commitments. From the Millennium Development Goals to the Dakar Declaration, countries have repeatedly committed themselves to achieving universal primary education and eliminating gender disparities at all levels of education by 2015 (link)."

The 26th Article of the UN Declaration of Human Rights reads (emphasis added):

(1) Everyone (including women and the poor) has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. (link

While having adequate supplies and teachers are vital, the first step is getting kids in school. It took years in this country for education to be free (and compulsory) for children. We had to shift our focus from being a human-propelled agriculture society to developing tools and systems that allowed families to be able to send their kids to school and still make a living.Nothing happens in isolation, microfinance, HIV/AIDS education/prevention/treatment. anti-trafficking measures, clean water, etc. all have to be at work also or, for too many children, education will continue to be a dream.

There are other challenges - cultural stigmas against girls (seeing them as less than boys, viewing/treating them as baby-makers and nothing more, etc), providing quality education (a challenge in the U.S. too!),  access to education for all. It is proven that once a girl is educated changes happen in a society.

"Better-educated girls make better decisions at home, at work, and are better prepared as mothers to protect their children’s health from chronic illnesses like HIV AIDS. Long-term, inequalities between girls and boys have significant negative impacts on societies and progress. Girls’ education is fundamental to economic and social development of individuals, families, and nations." ~The UN

It is an scary reality for some, but one that should be encouraging and exciting. Cultural shifts must be made, behavioral and mental changes too. Girls (and therefore women) must be seen as equals in society. They can contribute, grow, govern and impact their communities, countries and world the same as everyone else.

UNICEF outlines five elements for schools:

1. What students bring to learning. What experiences does the learner bring to school, and what particular challenges does she face? Has she been affected by emergencies, abuse, daily labour or AIDS? Has she had a positive, gender-sensitive early childhood experience within her family, her community and her preschool? How different is the language of her home from the language of her school? Has she been sufficiently oriented to the rhythm of schooling?

2. Environment. Is the learning environment healthy, safe, protective, stimulating and gender-sensitive?

3. Content of education. Are the curriculum and materials relevant? Do they impart basic skills, especially in literacy and numeracy? Do they promote life skills and knowledge areas such as gender, health, nutrition, AIDS prevention, peace, or other national and local priorities? How does the content of curriculum and learning materials include or exclude girls?

4. Processes. Are teachers using child-centred teaching approaches? Do their assessments facilitate learning and reduce disparities? Are classrooms and schools well-managed? Are the methods of teaching, learning and support – whether from supervisors, teachers, parents or communities – enhancing or undermining girls’ achievement?

5. Outcomes. What outcomes of basic education do we expect for girls? How can we document how well girls are learning and how well the curriculum furthers their future growth? Learning outcomes should be linked to national goals for education and should promote positive participation in society. (link)

09 March, 2011

A Lenten Prayer

A Lenten Prayer
By Henri Nouwen

The Lenten season begins. It is a time to be with you, Lord, in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.

I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.

I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life.  I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are not times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.

Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life that you have prepared for me.


04 March, 2011


The red dust of the the landscape still clings to me. Over a year later I check the bottom of my sandals to see if any of the clay is still there.

I miss the voices of the morning, the rain on the tin roof, the sound of the kids laughing in the afternoon.

It gets into you and doesn't let you go.

I've been thinking about Rwanda a lot lately. I am working on a photo book for it, trying to whittle down 1,000+ pictures and four months of memories into something tangible. I feel like with this book I should be able to say, "Here, here is what I did...."  But I know it won't be enough, nothing could be.

I miss my friends there. I miss the 1,000 hills and the sounds of the capital. I miss moto rides and the market, the rainy season and the dusting everything gets in the time before it comes.

It's odd, something that changed me so deeply, I have a hard time being able to articulate it fully to anyone else.

How do you begin to describe something you don't fully yet understand yourself?