Moving to

I'm moving sites!!! It's like moving apartments except I have no boxes or couches to move - how cool :)

Please keep following all my updates over at for the latest and greatest things from the world of Spud. Plus, the new site has lots more other than blog updates, including photos, videos, projects and design work that I've done. Trust me, it's good stuff!

Here's a preview of what you'll find...

Updates from the Music Project

I blog in numerous spots, and wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to read some of my other thoughts over at New Leaf Initiative about the work we are doing in the tent camps with musicians there. Take the time to read through the updates, another one will most likely be coming in the next couple days to recap the end of the trip.

Music in the Tent Camp - Update #1

Music in the Tent Camp - Update #2

If you have enjoyed the blog posts over the past month and are interested in seeing that my work down there continues, please consider donating at

I don't like asking for money one bit and prefer that my posts don't make calls for money, but in that case, I feel it is extremely important. I am currently putting together a promotional video for the project which will hopefully be ready in the next two weeks - stay tuned for that update :) Thank you once again for all your support and encouragement, all the messages and comments mean the world to me!

concrete alleys and passing tires

Devoid of light, the night sky is crisp and smooth. Pinpoints of light in a vast expanse, the stars shine proudly from their heavenly view. The mountains struggle to faintly define their silhouette against the darkness and occasional lights in the homes scattered across the hillside seem to reflect the stars high above like a ripple-free lake.

I stand in perfect stillness, not wanting to interrupt the perfection surrounding me. My heart seems to stop beating out of respect, and not a sound can be heard. Quiet. Complete calm. Perfection.

The birds of the night begin their chorus song, echoing across the valleys and ridge lines.

I struggle to keep unnecessary thoughts out of my head. I want to remember every ounce of these surroundings. The stones that line the earth beneath me, I can feel their every contour under the soles of my shoes. The leaves of an apricot tree sway to the song of the choir, beckoning the moon to shine more light on their dance. I close my eyelids and soak it all in. I no longer feel like I am in Port-au-prince.

Twenty minutes down the mountain road and the congestion, corruption and commotion of a fractured and bustling Caribbean city comes to life. Concrete replaces the trees' canopy and the song birds are muffled by the movement of passing tires.

This is an escape, a reminder of the natural beauty this city has to offer. Trees struggle for their existence in a country that has only 1% of their forests remaining. The soil holding their roots is shallow in comparison to the neighboring country of the Dominican Republic as a result of continued erosion. The rains take their toll on the country and the bonds of poverty become harder and harder to break as the environment continues to fall apart under their feet. Under the concrete and plastic below, the bonds seem too much to break free from, but up here, in the darkness and safety of the trees, the song birds sing a song of hope.

It is with these thoughts that I jump back into our small four-by-four and head back down the mountain. I know what lies ahead, and I feel encouraged and strengthened with my renewed hope for this country. Twenty minutes pass, and the concrete hits with tenacity. The potholes welcome us back and we drive past the tent camps once more. I hate every time that I have to drive by a tent camp in a car, I don't like the thought that I only have to deal with 'that situation' for a mere 5 seconds, the time it takes to veer around a pile of rubble. I want to confront the uncomfortable. I want to delve into the poverty.

Seconds later and the tent camp is out of sight, but I fight to keep it in mind. It is too easy to become numb to the sites and sounds in Port-au-prince and I want to make sure that my time down here doesn't cause me to belittle the severity of everything around me.

Although it doesn't take long for a new site to grasp my focus.

Turning the corner, our car slows down as we move around a few pot-holes. As we near the curb, two girls walk out from the shadows dressed in glittery shirts and with their hair done up. They can't be more than 15. One wears tight black pants while the other has a short skirt on. They try to act confident but their size and age make it impossible to seem anything more than nervous. They start to approach our car.

I had heard about the girls in the tent camp who have no other choice but to sell their bodies at night. With no other way to bring in money for their family, sometimes which they are the head of the household, they turn to the streets at night. For $2-3, they can get just enough to buy rice or spaghetti for the next day. I had read the statistics. I had heard the reasoning for why girls have to make this decision. I had thought I understood the problem.

But on that street corner, sitting idle beside the pothole as the shadows lurch toward my car window, I realize that I have no idea what these girls face day-in and day-out. The girls' face burns in my mind. Her eyes seem to penetrate my own through the car's window and her gaze digs deep into my soul. I can feel it digging, and my soul is like deep soil for her eyes to take root in. Deeper and deeper they go and I do nothing to stop the feeling. Unlike the tent camps, this is a site that will not fade away. I don't have to fight to keep this picture in my mind.

The car picks up speed and as quickly as we turned the corner, we are gone. The girl inches back into the shadows and waits for the next passing car as it slows beside her curb.

Innocence fades into indistinguishable dark shapes, her fate stolen by circumstances outside of her control. Another victim to these concrete alleys and passing tires.

I know from my time down here over the last month that it takes about 15 minutes to get back to the apartment from where we are. I know which buildings are most destroyed and where the best street vendors are along that route. I know the potholes and the speed-bumps. But in these next 15 minutes, all I can think about is that face and those eyes.

I stare outside with a blank glaze, anger swelling within. I try to convince myself that perhaps she was not a child prostitute and I made a false judgement too quickly. Perhaps she still has her innocence. But a 'perhaps' does little to settle the discontent that causes my stomach to flip inside.

The car feels like a prison and I look up into the sky to find escape. The dark night seems to have changed so drastically during our drive.

No longer crisp.
No longer smooth.
No longer perfection.

Clouds of ash and grey swirl in the darkness and conceal the pinpoints of light. Like a renaissance painting which has been run over by a tire caked in grey mud, I try with all I can to focus solely on the beauty beneath. But the smudges of grey are too much and I can't take my eyes off of them. I get frustrated with the clouds, my body begins to tense, my heart is racing and I close my eyes to escape the clouds' presence. They disappear, but the face remains. Burned into the back of my eyelids, I can think of nothing else, and a tear begins to roll down my cheek.

the street below

A stray piece of styrofoam lies downstream from the pack, stranded alone and waiting for a breeze of the wind to carry it back to the group. On these streets, litter huddles together like violent gangs of the inner-city, and their presence is well known to all who walk on by. The dumpsters, designed to contain their entirety, are no match and overflow in all directions. The trash forms streams and moves swiftly onto the street before taken up by a passing tire. Passer-bys walk with their eyes directed elsewhere as they maneuver past, only to be met by a similar gang a few blocks down the road.

One brave, older women ventures into the mess with a small broom, made from nothing more than a tree branch and some straw bunched together, and attempts to clear a small patch where she can set up her shop for the afternoon. All the other spots are taken along the street. She doesn't need much room, just enough space for a bucket to sit on and a place to set a basket of laundry and cleaning supplies.  Twenty feet down the road a younger lady sells the same items, I begin to wonder how so many vendors can sell the same thing.

As I walk on, I come to another trash gang up ahead, this one average in size and only overflowing on two of the four sides. There's movement in the trash and from a distance, i cannot entirely tell what is disrupting the peace. Nearing the pile, I find a family of baby chicks emerging from underneath. The mother hen stands guard along the dumpster wall, watching as her flock of nearly a half dozen children wade through the trash looking for food for the day. The heat of the trash creates a slight haze of fog lifting all around the baby chicks, and they dart in and out of the styrofoam containers and plastic bottles with ease. 

I walk by, inches from the family, yet they seem unaware of my nearness. I stop and smile, and then move on. Up ahead, I pass by another series of street-side vendors, some of which are cooking and selling chicken. The road beneath them is littered in small plastic water bags, much like the ones that milk are served in at elementary school. Like a forest after a gentle snowfall, with occasional patches of white scattered across it's twig-strewn floor, the streets are littered in plastic. The bags do not carry enough importance to join forces with the larger trash gangs, they are simply tossed aside and quickly carried by the breeze. The bags seem to know they are not welcomed in the trash piles, and form a grouping of their own. Their pile is more uniform than the larger trash gangs and they cover a greater distance, although more sparse. The dust from passing vehicles forms a thin layer of earth on top and soon, they begin to fade into the ground, fooling the time nature needs to break down the plastic's synthetic bonds.

I turn the next corner and can see my apartment up at the top of the hill. I dodge an open sewer hole in which a trash gang has made it's home within. A small plant seems to grow from within and for a second, I begin to hope that maybe the trash has the ability to produce and harbor life, but as my gaze looks up once more, I see a pile of trash being burned and the smell quickly changes my mind. Plumes of grey smoke slowly billow out of the pile, and a faint flame can be seen underneath the great mound. Plastic bottles melt into pools of bubbling chemicals and the speckles of color are charred into a dull grey. A layer of mud seems to clothe the pile and the pockets of air find their way to the surface and escape into the shuffling crowd. 

I join the crowd myself and lifting my eyes toward the horizon, i avoid the stares from the trash below. You learn to become numb to it's presence beneath your feet, and i find my mind racing to other thoughts and concerns.


The dust kicks up from the trucks traveling north and I veer to the side to shield my eyes. A snake of vehicles meanders down the mountain and loose stones roll precariously down the middle of the road. The trees lining the road offer little shade as the sun beats down from high above and scorches the land below. Every inch of shade is preciously guarded by those who sell goods along the street and they watch with keen interest as i walk on by. 

For as much of an effort that i make to avoid staring at the people and sites I walk by, the courtesy is not always returned and I can feel the eyes beating down on me from both sides of the street. I can't blame them, it's doubtful that they ever see a white person walking these streets by themselves, if at all. They most likely know I am lost, but i doubt they realize it is done on intention. During my time here, i have yet to see one other white person walking the streets of port-au-prince. They are always in some form of vehicle and most often in groups driving to the comfort of their next stop ahead. 

I continue walking and come across a vehicle full of what i assume to be missionaries from America. They try not to stare but it is clear that they are watching my steps and wondering what I'm doing outside on my own. I seem to be more fascinating to them than the crowds of people and crumbling buildings behind me.

Perhaps its my inability to speak the language - a skill I am forever envious of others who are able to pick up languages with such ease - and I find that my best way to get to know the culture is to simoly walk their streets and sit in their guarded patches of shade. It is my feeble attempt to show that I want to learn from them and simply be with them. I may not be able to communicate, but by placing myself where they are, I hope that i can bridge a path to friendship.

Martin Buber, a Jewish philosopher, talks about how we have two choices in life; we can look around and see people as objects, as 'its', or we can choose to enter into their lives, into their humanity, and view them as a 'thou.' Sometimes it feels that the thin piece of glass wedged in a car window is enough to separate an 'it' from a 'thou.' for now, I'll place myself on the other side of the glass and out on the streets.

I don't want to judge those driving in the cars though, i understand the potential safety risks, the logistics of having a large group of travelers, and the difficulty in navigating the streets of a foreign country - not everyone can simply go wandering for hours and intentionally get lost.

But I do get concerned when our prescribed priorities in life place us in positions where we are forced to simply stare out from our comfort zones at the world around us. Whether it's the safety of our homes, cars, schools, or careers - we are masters at building up invisible walls around our lives. I am guilty of this. Even in Haiti, I find the desire to at times simply stay within the comfort of my cool apartment and read and write (kind of like I'm doing right now) rather than go out in the sun and let the sweat and dirt mix as they run down the back of my calves. 

I like to think that god sends me little hints and nudges to go out though. Small signs, like the fact that our stove ran out of propane and is taking awhile to refill so I have to go out to get food. Or how the internet will randomly go down and I have no excuse to stay inside and 'do research' on something that is rarely of top priority.

So as the cars continue to pass by, and as the sidewalk disappears and i find myself walking on the road, i am at peace knowing that the heat which beats down on me is the same as that which beats down on this country each day. I join in the walks of the school children as they file out of school in search for a tap-tap to take them back home. The stares don't stop, but as the crowd's age becomes younger, more smiles are shared alongside the stares. Kids have an ability to break down walls of separation and division, and I strangely find comfort in their stares. I smile back and they laugh as they turn to join the rest of their classmates. 

From a car, the streets of Haiti may appear to be nothing more than a series of potholes which separate one series of crumbled buildings from another. But from outside the car, these streets are alive with energy and beauty. I find myself at ease as I flow in the crowds around the trash piles and broken-down vehicles much like a school of fish swim in uniform around the intricacies of a coral reef. Such a beautiful mess.

lost in the beauty

Today was one of those days. I'm learning that my favorite way to get to know a city is to simply get lost. Last week, I went for a walk and shortly after got entirely lost. 5 hours later and i made it to my originally intended destination, and with a lot more knowledge and understanding of the place i call home for the next few weeks. Today was another one of those days.

Around lunch, i took the nearby tap-tap to meet a good friend of mine 20 mins down the road. From there, we grabbed a motorcycle and took off for the other side of town where we were meeting with some locals who would take us into the tent camps of cite solei. After hitchhiking on the back of a few pickup trucks (which I found to be quite the efficient means of getting aroun) and a few more tap-taps, we made it to the settlement. 

Inside we were greeted by the president of the tent camp and began to talk about life in the camp and the role in which music could play. Not having any understanding of French or creole turned out to be a slight hindrance (who would have thought) and instead of translating much of the conversation, i just let everyone else talk abut the project. Although not intended, I think this turned out to b a neat way to interact, because it let the haitians take ownership of the project and determine how it would best work and help the community.

After a few minutes, the children's curiosity began to get the best of them and we were joined by two dozen kids interested more in the color of our skin and snacks in our bag than the conversation being had. Who can blame them, cookies nearly always trump everything else. So we decided to take a walk around the camp (with 5 or 6 ds hanging off of each of us) and see the way life was run here. It was all so organized and for the most part, well kept. Each tent seemed to have it's own garden attached and the trails were relatively clean of trash (compared to the rest of Haiti). Mothers sat outside their homes sewing clothing or cooking dinner and the kids darted in and out of the plastic forts. As we walked, i talked with one of the residents who acted as our translator and we began to discuss the details of the music project in more depth. He told me how engaged the kids were to go to school and how instruments would be a tremendous asset to the school. I started to learn the value in developing close friendships and relationships with key people within the community who could then properly represent the project to the rest of the community. This allows the project to live beyond me and new leaf, we can help get it started and initiate a few key pieces, but ultimately the direction and energy will come from the haitians.

After walking around for awhile, the children's radar seemed to narrow in on the packs of cookies we carried with us and once we were with a manageable group, we distributed them to the group. Instant smiles all around. We said our goodbyes to the group and thank them for their generosity and carried on down the road.

Then the getting lost part started to happen.

At the intersection, we split from the rest of the group and dora and I continued on in a different direction. With a mix of over-confidence and eagerness to see a new part of the city we jumped on a tap-tap heading in the direction we thought to be towards our home. But within seconds we veered off the main road and were heading in the complete opposite direction of what we intended. As we traveled deeper and deeper into the city and down a maze of roads, we lost site of the sea and began to doubt our ability to get back. 

But seconds later, we turned a corner and came directly in front of the palace in port-au-prince. We decided to take advantage of the opportunity and jumped off to take a few pictures. As soon as the cameras were out of our bags, the art dealers were upon us. We walked past the first few but then one man approached us and the vibe in the air changed. There was something different about him, something which made us stop and listen to his story. The paintings lay on the sidewalk and for awhile, we stopped talking about art focused rather on his family. We learned about family members he lost in the earthquake and the struggles he faced trying to provide for those that were fortunate enough to be spared. I have heard the stories of pain and loss, but this time was different. This time I couldn't keep walking, i couldn't speed on to my safe apartment at the top of the street. This time i stopped. This time I listened. 

It doesn't take long to make a friend, and soon one friend leads to many others. As we crossed the street away from the palace and into the tent camps located directly across from the main gate, we were introduced to many of the musicians within the plastic-tarped village. We chatted about the work we were doing and how we could work together. We were invited into the tents and sat down to talk more and listen to some of our new friends sing. 

Inside the tent, a picture of the new president hung and a tv and fan sat in the corner. A few sheets hung over the window opening and a small rug laid at the foot of the mattress sitting on the ground. This was a luxury tent. The owner was blessed to have family back in the states who sent money down for him and as a result, his tent stood above the rest. Sadly, the vast majority of his tent camp neighbors were not as fortunate and their homes consist of mostly plastic walls, a floor mat and a few cooking utensils. A mattress is a luxury, and electricity is unheard of. 

We continued to laugh, share stories of our lives to that point, and how our dreams for the future could coincide. But as the sun began to set, we packed up our stuff and ventured back out to the road. They escorted us back to the tap-tap station and soon we were on our way to our original destination. I am quite grateful for unexpected detours in life. Haiti always teaches me patience and I am so grateful that I was able to not worry about what I needed today and instead, take the time to make some new friends. Next week, I hope to head back and film some video recordings of the musicians and hear more stories of life in the tent camp. Rumor has it that we may have a choir of 300 kids singing for us next week, oh boy...

another day in Haiti

The blood covers my foot and I can no longer tell what parts of my leg are covered in flesh, blood and soil. I try not to look long at the numerous wounds on the lower half of my body, not wanting to think about the cleanup work i will have to do when i get home, and quickly assess the rest of the situation. Shock sets in and as the crowds start staring and slowly moving in, I jump off the ground and smile back. Confused at my over-excitement about the situation, the locals aren't quite sure how to respond. One man offers a hand but I turn my attention towards the driver laying on the ground instead. Unsure if I offended the man offering help, my mind wrestles with the decision and distracts itself from the wreck around me. Reality hits as soon as the driver gets up and looks to see if I am alright. 

Seconds earlier, the two of us were traveling down The mountain on a motorcycle. With unusual caution, for the first time in Haiti I actually felt completely safe on the back of a bike. The pounding monsoon rains from the night before left parts of the road overflowing in mud and broken trees and my eyes scanned the horizon at the various landslides that had deformed the terrain around me. As the other motorcycles quickly darted in and out of the rubble, my driver and I remained in line with the rest of the cars. With a growing amount of confidence in my driver, I reach for my bag and pull out my camera to take pictures of the mudslides below. The ride couldn't have been going better, until the first turn ahead started to approach. As if seeing into the futue, I looked ahead and saw the patch of slick rocks and rubble up ahead, in direct path of our route. Like a tattoo on the earth, the mudslides and torrential rain from the night before had left their mark on the road ahead of us. 

The next seconds went too quickly to remember and soon I found myself sliding horizontal through the mud and rocks with a bike laying on my side. Everything suddenly went by quite slowly and I looked up to see the tent camp ahead of me and artisans lining the other side of the road. Pain didn't even cross my mind and the seriousness of what had happened faded to the back of my mind. That all soon changed when I looked up to be greeted by the front end of a giant water trucker.

The truck darts past us and in avoiding the pothole in the center of the road, runs over the glass which was at one point in-tact on our motorcycle seconds earlier. Glass shards shatter and are thrown in our direction. I lower my shoulder and shield my face as the truck drives by unaware of our situation below. I pick up my things off the ground and am impressed as i realize i instinctly protected my camera during the fall. I take a few seconds to decide whether to get back onto the bike or stay stranded in the middle of a section of portauprince i know nothing about. I decided to straddle the bike and the crowd gives me an unassuring nod back. The bike is silent and no kick or flp of a switch seems to wake the giant. As if it is aware of the fall it just took, the bike stubbornly sits along the side of the road and refuses to budge. With some help from the man who offered his hand and after some twisting of wires, the bike purs to life again and we slowly move in our original direction of travel.

As we drive on, eyes gravitate in our direction. My leg is covered in blood and the sandal is torn apart. With extreme caution, we drift towards my apartment at the bottom of the hill. Minutes later we arrive safely and I jump off the bike and hand the driver a few goudes. Shocked that I was still willing to pay, the driver smiles and apologizes once again in a mix of English and creole. We smile and I turn to head inside and begin the cleanup process. Just another day in Haiti...


As we walk into the restaurant and take our seat outside, the white clouds gently roll over and cast a welcomed shadow over our table. The almond tree provides additional shade and our feet welcome the opportunity to rest for a change. We open the menus that are handed to us and begin scanning through the dinner options for the night. Within a few minutes, the clouds above begin to change and a few rain drops dodge the almond tree leaves above and land on our shoulders. The last few months have been the rainy season in haiti and a little rain is nothing new, although for june, the amount of rain that Haiti has experienced is far greater than normal. We pick up our stuff and move inside to escape the drizzle outside and as we move in, the rain lightens and we carry on with our meal. 

Nearly two hours later and we are finished with the food and begin to wash up to head back to my apartment. As we come out of the bathroom and contemplate how dark it is getting outside, a flash of water erupts from the skies and lands just outside the doorway. Within a matter of minutes, the water has taken shelter in the courtyard outside and quickly rises to 3 feet in depth. The rainwater pools around the almond tree and begins to cover the table we were earlier seated at. Through an opening in the gate, we steal a view of the main road and notice the speed at which the water rushes past our small building. The drizzle has suddenly decided to quicken in pace and the decision go head is now more complicated.

M apartment is 3 blocks down the road and with no way to know how long the monsoon will last, we decide to head back to my place as soon as we can. I decide to go alone first to grab rain gear and bags to protect our cameras and electronics and plan to return to the restaurant and get the rest of the group.

As I jump out of the restaurant and into the courtyard, i quickly discover the depth of the pool ahead of me. Water splashes into my face and i find myself standing in water up to my thighs. I venture out more slowly past the gate and turn onto the main road. The scene ahead of me is like something directly out of a hollywood movie. Cars are still driving down the road but the water rushes past them at a speed 10 times faster. People are huddled along the side of the road under any canopy or overhang they can find. Some are wrapped in a plastic sheet and rest precariously on a piece of concrete rubble. 

I begin my walk down the road and grip onto walls and gates as I move forward. The force of the river drives the back of my leg and as I pass by the heaps of trash stored on the side of the road, plastic bottles and styrofoam containers pelt me with surprising force. The potholes and cavities in the road are only distinguishable from the whirlpools that form below and I'm careful to avoid each potential obstacle.

I make it to my road and turn the corner and enter through the gate and into my apartment. I quickly grab anything waterproof and head back outside. As I leave the gate and turn the corner, a 30 foot water trucker attempts to make a turn in the middle of the road and begins to tip. As if a dam has been dropped into the road from the heavens, the water quickly rushes up and over the truck forming a waterfall rising upward in the opposite direction. I dodge around the truck and start walking upstream against the force of the water. 

Aware of the force and danger of the water, i slow my pace and am careful as to where i step. In my caution, the water grabs hold of my flip flop and sends it flying down the road towards the upside down waterfall. I pause and contemplate walking towards the restaraunt barefoot but decide to turn around and grab a pair of shoes. 

A few minutes later and I return to the restaurant and retrieve the rest of the group. We stash our gear in the bags and walk back into the river. The desire to move quickly to get back soon and desire to move slowly to get back safely bounce back and forth in our minds. Holding onto one another, we manage to make it back to the apartment safely and quickly begin the drying off and showering process. After walking through water littered with trash and overfilled sewers, it's important that we wash quickly to clean any possible bacteria or diseases.

After laughing at the craziness of the past hour and reflecting on the seriousness and danger that storms like this pose, we rest in the comfort of our apartment and pray for those enduring the storm in the nonexistent safety of the tent cities. I wish i were able to open my doors and invite people from off the streets into our relatively dry  space, but I feel as if my hands ours tied and don't know how to best help. I didn't sleep well that night as those thoughts lingered in my mind.

The next day i rose and ventured out into portauprince to assess the damage. A few people lined the streets with shovels and began digging out areas full of mud and water, but for the most part, life continued. Vendors watched diligently over their baskets of products and tap-tap and moto drivers continued to weave in and out of traffic with loads of people piled into the back. 

Not until I began reading news articles and talking with local aid workers did I begin to realize that over 20 people died and more were missing. I began to hear of stories of people that were swept out of their cars and taken down the road towards whatever lay below. I heard of roofs and buildings that caved in and were quickly full of mud.

Yet life continues on and the world spins away. Another storm will come, and more buildings and lives will fall. 

The forces that shape and influence a country like Haiti are many and interlinked. The rains of a summer storm create visible valleys and riverbeds along the streets and villages of the country, but equally as destructive are the forces from international trade restrictions, reliance on aid and handouts, and deterioration of trust and collaboration within a culture. The impacts of a storm are easy to photograph and write about. Groups can rally support and donations to relieve the direct impacts. But the often invisible forces are the ones that are harder to show, harder to measure, and harder to express to those outside of haiti.

The rains will continue to beat down upon the land, but hopefully the country and international community can begin to collectively tackle the other forces that are the true shapers of the land. I have not been in Haiti long enough to know and understand all of these, but i am hoping through my time here, i can better understand how they link together and influence the lives of those I hope to live and learn alongside in these coming weeks.

singing in the rain

A cloud rolls over the distant valley and shadows the pine trees below. The onset of spring fades back beneath the mountain and the clouds claim victory to the afternoon's sun. One drop leads to another, and before long, the dirt path under my feet begins to shift. The rain is light to the touch and warm on my face; it's the kind of rain you hope for in the hot spells of summer. But the chill in the air prevents me from enjoying God's gift from above.

Have you ever thought of the different kinds of rain? There are the tropical rains of Haiti which pound upon the banana leaves above. There's the rain you find in the Alps which conceals the mountain tips in a dense blanket of fog. And there's the rains of Lancaster which roll in across acres of farmer fields before arriving at your front doorstep.

Some rain you run out to welcome while others send chills down your spine and encourage you to keep the fire burning inside.

But regardless of the kind of rain, it can often result in loosing sight of what's to come. No rain lasts forever, but when we're in the middle of it, it sure seems otherwise. In the warm rains of life, we joyfully loose ourselves in the moment and forget about the worries of tomorrow while the rain pours down. Water washes over our face and cleanses us of the regrets and fears of yesterday.

But there are also the cold rains of life. The rain that beckons the storm clouds and hides the sunshine from our face. And rather than erasing the worries of tomorrow, the cold rains seem to amplify the pain of today. The skies darken and it can be easy to loose hope. With no source of light to guide us forward, we have to look internally for that ray of light.

That's probably the hardest test of all, finding that light within.

As I mentioned a few days ago in a previous blog post, I have a friend of mine who has been fighting in the rain cloud for quite some time now. And when to all others it seems like there is no light ahead to give direction, she manages to take one more step forward, guided by a light within her that never seems to flicker. It may be a simple step, but in the midst of the cold rains of life, that step seems like a life's journey.

MercyMe has a song called "Keep Singing" with the following lyrics:
"I gotta keep singing; I gotta keep praising Your name; You're the one who's keeping my heart beating."

That last line, keeping my heart beating, has taken on a much more literal meaning these last few days. I don't know how some people keep singing, but the more I see others continue to sing, the more I find the desire to continue to pray. While they sing, I'll pray.

There are some people in life who we are called to walk the entire road with. For others, we join them on their journey in the small steps within the rain storms. With no history or knowledge of the road that has been forged in the past, we join them in their song. If you've followed this blog at all, or randomly stumbled on this site, would you mind sending an extra prayer up tonight for my friend. Pray that the sun will begin to peak through the clouds and that God will smile down on those who have joyfully continued to sing despite the storm clouds around them.

soaked in the now

Let the blowing litter and spinning tires pass me by as my feet float down alleys and sidewalks of concrete. The noise of the city lights lulls my mind into a constant state of alertness, and time slips from seconds to hours. Bar doors swing open and the life and heat within escape onto the rainy streets outside. The city has a life of its own, one with hidden jewels and distractions around every corner. Central Park miraculously defends its limits against encroaching buildings of steel and glass on all sides. Flowers populate the medians and the scent of tulips slip past the falling rain drops. A flash flood begins to form on the street and the plastic umbrella canopy provides safety to those darting past the natural beauty scattering the sea of gray and artificial light.

This past weekend I traveled to NYC to talk and hang out with more people passionate about re-vitalizing and re-energizing the world around them. They work in a variety of fields and are driven by different aspects, but they share that common goal of creating a better place for those around them. They create opportunities, foster openness, and leverage others. As I met with all these different people, I quickly realized that in NYC, for every hour spent meeting with someone, it takes two hours to simply get to the meeting. Seconds slip to hours, and you begin to value the time you do have with people all the more.

But sometimes, the time spent moving from one meeting to the other is vastly overlooked. As I rode the subway from uptown to downtown, I would talk with the guys I was traveling with about how great the previous meeting was and what we needed to talk about in the next one. We naturally focus on the past and future - and forget to live in the now.

This is a byproduct of our culture, especially that in NYC, and we get swept away from the 'mindset of now' as quickly as the subway train speeds away from a platform. But as I walked the streets of NYC in the pouring down rain with no umbrella and a poorly chosen jacket which prefers to absorb water rather than reflect it, I started to soak in (literally) the here and now.

With water pouring off my shoulders, I started to reflect on how extremely fortunate I am in life. Here I am wandering the streets of NYC in the rain, pursuing a passion of mine to create a dream company which would improve the lives of countless people around the world (at least that's my hope). Who cares if it's raining. Who cares if my jacket works better than the sponge on my sink at home. God has entrusted me with so much - what a blessing and privilege!

And not only has he entrusted me with responsibilities, but He has surrounded me with friends who support me at all costs. I can't say how thankful I am to all those who have specifically offered their couches, blow-up mattresses, and floors over the last few months. I wish I could properly thank each and every one of you for the piece that you play in my life - you have made aspects of my faith come alive!

I'm learning to trust in what God says about not worrying about tomorrow. Just as the birds in the air are fed and the flowers in the field are clothed, God always provides. I may not know where I'm sleeping next week, and I may not have met some of the people I previously have stayed with - but I do know that tonight I have a place to stay, friends to surround me, and a passion planted in my heart that God continues to water. Let God's love and purpose for my life rain down and soak me from head to toe; there's nothing more that I could ever want!

the soldiers

I've met the soldiers. I've heard their stories, their tales of persistent endurance and steadfast determination. And I've watched as they fight through the trials of life that would bring any one of us to our knees.

I'm not talking about soldiers of war, but soldiers of another kind of battle. A battle that happens internally and is often a one-on-one struggle. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with a strange heart condition and given only a few months to live. I've never physically met this friend and I've only heard tales of her battle - but from those stories, I've come to know a person who is relentless in her fight and manages to take each next step with the biggest smile on her face. I'm not sure where she draws her energy from and I'm not sure the conversations that happen inside her head - but from the bit that I do know, she has inspired me beyond what a simple blog post could express.

She has given me the energy to fight my own battles.

Over the years, I've been blessed to meet all kinds of soldiers. Ones that fight cancer, others that fight depression. Some that fight oppression and others that fight injustice. Some have won their battle in this life and others have taken the fight with them to the grave and overcome it on a spiritual battleground. And through it all, God has stood by their side and never left them. What the soldiers sometimes don't realize is the impact they have on everyone else around them. The true inspirations, the ones who stand out among the rest, are the ones who are willing to share their struggle with us. They open their hearts and let us walk alongside them, and without knowing it, they rub off on us and encourage so many in the struggles that we often keep closed off from the rest of the world.

One of my closest soldier friends was a teacher of mine in High School. One day, years before he would come to fight his own battle, he took us out to a cemetery. As we walked from tombstone to tombstone, he lead us to one and had us read the inscriptions. He paused and then noted how on every tombstone, there are three things in common: a start date, an end date, and a tiny dash that separates the two. Of anything on there, the only thing we have control over is that tiny dash. A scratch in a rock is the legacy we leave behind - what we choose to make of that dash is up to us. A couple years later God called that soldier back to be with him, and I can honestly say that of anyone I've known, his dash has had one of the greatest impacts on my life. He made a difference and he walked in love.

We all have those people, those soldiers, in our lives. Take some time to sincerely thank them for what they've done. And if you wouldn't mind, send a prayer up for the current soldier in my life, may she overcome her fight and continue to inspire those connected to her.

last will be first

I am afraid that one day I will learn to grow accustomed to the uneasiness and discontent within me. I fear that I might become numb to the world around me, and forget to distinguish between our current reality and future possibility. Passing from room to room, news stories flood past me illustrating accounts of hurt, suffering, selfishness, and violence that pound outside the walls of my safe home. Within a matter of a few steps, I walk out my side door and into a car which comfortably carries me onward. The world seems so safe behind these shields of glass.

I am becoming familiar with the culture and structure of the world I've come to know, and it takes all that I am to deviate from that comfort.

I've been aware of this frustration for some time now, but it hit me today while I was at a lawn-mower dealership. While my dad was signing the paperwork, I was out in the showroom and began talking with one of the salesman. Without intending to, our conversation started to focus on my time in Haiti and some of the work we were doing down there with New Leaf. And more than once, he made the comment to me, 'thank you so much for everything you do, the world needs more people like you.' And while I was extremely grateful and humbled by his comments and gratitude, I was also upset. That uneasiness in the pit of my stomach came back, and I wasn't entirely sure why at first.

This evening I was reading through some thoughts by Shane Claiborne (from a Christian perspective, he's got some awesome stuff) and I came across a quote of his that summed up what I felt earlier in the day.
"Sometimes people call folks here at the Simple Way saints. Usually they either want to applaud our lives and live vicariously through us, or they want to write us off as superhuman and create a safe distance. One of my favorite quotes, written on my wall here in bold black marker, is from Dorothy Day: "Don't call us saints; we don't want to be dismissed that easily"
I don't know the life story of the gentleman I was talking with today at the lawn-mower store, and simply from our brief talk, it sounded like he truly was concerned about the pain and suffering that people felt in Haiti. But I get concerned when people begin proping others up as saints. We so quickly label those who do extra-ordinary acts as saints, angels, or blessings in disguise. Without knowing it or intending to, we distance ourselves and put them on a pedastol that makes us feel ok with the way our lives are lived. It's similar to how we view Olympians - they are simply super-athletes capable of things we could never dream about. But every Olympian gets to where they are at through practice. And every saint is capable of achieving the extraordinary through discipline and love.

I have been blessed to be given opportunities to stretch my comfort zone. But I never want those opportunities to set me apart from others who are capable of the same and so much more.

When I talk about my trip to Haiti, I don't want people walking away thinking how great it was that I took the time to travel there and help out. Rather, I want people to walk away thinking about the residents of Port-au-prince, the ones who live there day in and day out beneath a sheet of plastic and on nothing more than a thin blanket. They are the angels in disguise and ones who God loves with all his heart.

In Matthew, Christ says "So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Our culture has come to put great emphasis and praise upon those who are first in the world, and they are the ones rewarded with comfortable walls and comfortable cars. But as humanitarian and charitable activities receive greater and greater attention in our media, may those of us who find ourselves in that work be careful not to remain content with being labeled 'first.'

Shane writes "Christianity is at its best when it is peculiar, marginalized, suffering, and it is at its worst when it is popular, credible, triumphal, and powerful."

Continue to look for ways to be last, for it is in those places where God truly begins to work miracles. Humility is more than modesty - it is a discipline of placing ourselves 'last' and being ever wary of the comforts of being 'first.'


I want to be a secret saint that lives in the shadows - away from the spotlight of praise and fame that our culture is so quick to hand out and take back.

I want to be a gentle mentor that works from the sidelines - providing opportunities for others to emerge as leaders and live out their heavenly potential.

I want to be a patient servant that humbly steps forward - following the path that Christ is leading without a selfish desire to begin laying my own path before Him.

I am slowly learning what it means to be a leader and a follower, and that journey is always unexpected and full of turns I would never have guessed. Through the creation of New Leaf and building of relationships on various sustainability projects, I'm beginning to learn more about myself and how God desires to use me. I'm learning the importance of stepping out of the boat and trusting that I can walk on water. I'm learning what it means to have self-confidence, yet remain humble in my abilities and experiences. I'm learning how beautiful this world can be if we take the time to listen to the visions and dreams of those around us.

I've been reading "Follow Me To Freedom" by Shaine Claiborne and John Perkins. In one chapter, Shane talks about his encounters with Mother Theresa and shares some of her thoughts on leadership and the work she was doing.
"One time, a reporter asked her, 'Is your work going to live after you?' She quietly and respectively dismissed the question, saying 'That is of no concern to me.' It was like she was saying, 'That's God's business.'
That is a lesson for all of us. This is God's work, not ours. The moment we lose a sense of that, we start to lose our bearings. It is a danger sign.

After Mother Theresa died, a reporter asked me, 'Is the spirit of Mother Theresa going to live on?' I said, 'The spirit of Mother Theresa died a long time ago. What people love about Mother Theresa is the spirit of Jesus in her, and that's going to live forever.'"
Too often I can get caught up in the work that I'm doing and letting it entirely represent me. Without knowing, I take credit for the accomplishments (and failures) that I'm involved with. At any moment they could all be taken away, so I hope that I learn to be a representative of Christ more so than a representative of my own work. I've been blessed to be given so many passions and interests in life, and I hope that the work itself never blinds me from the people I'm touching through those projects.

the faintest of similarities

I'm told that the city no longer smells like rotting flesh. The bodies have mostly been recovered from the rubble, and today, Port-au-prince resembles more of a city deteriorating at the hands of time than a city which claimed the lives of thousands of innocent victims.

As I walk the roads scattered with potholes, as if modeled after a Jackson Pollock painting, images of the days directly after the quake flash through my mind. I was in Sweden at the time, and I remember sitting up late into the night with my eyes fixed upon the computer as image upon image rolled in. Some moments leave you breathless; unfortunately for the wrong reasons.

But as I continue on my walk and my eyes drift up to the incredible light show above me, I remind myself that I shouldn't remain in a state of breathlessness and inaction. The last thing that the people of Haiti need is for inaction.

A few hours later and I find myself sitting in a comfortably cushioned chair as our plane touches down on US soil. When the light above our heads turn off, dozens of passengers stream out of the aircraft's' tiny opening and we all walk quickly through the maze of hallways to customs and baggage claim. As we hurriedly walk towards our destination, we pass by numerous screens with images of the tragedy in Japan flashing by above us - and the magnitude of these recent disasters begins to settle in. After seeing first-hand the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti over one year later, my heart goes out to all those on the other side of the world in Japan experiencing similar pain and confusion. Some things are simply impossible to comprehend until we see them first-hand; and a picture on a tv seems entirely insufficient to contain the severity of the situation.

But through the faintest of similar experiences, we begin to relate with those on the other side of a picture. And an image becomes more than an image. We are called to be people of gracious compassion and abundant love. We are called to put our unnecessary comforts behind us in order to lend a helping hand to those in need. Take a moment to slow down in the midst of our fast-paced lives and really think about the role you can play for those in need. It may just surprise you what answers you uncover...

navigating a sea of blue tents

With my neck bent forward, I'm just able to squeeze my head through the open window and catch a glimpse of the stars dancing above us. The last four hours have been spent within our compact metal shuttle as we bounce along the deteriorating roads and speed by the thousands of families scattered across the countryside. Our tin roof on wheels with paint peeling around the corners feels like a kings palace in comparison to the plastic USAID tarps of those all around us. My heart breaks as our tap-tap passes by each families' tent - as easily as we turn off the nightly news reports back home. A statistic is a statistic until you meet them face-to-face. But for tonight, the stars will have to suffice and paint the picture of what has happened under their careful watch this past year.

Today was spent traveling north of Port-au-prince to a small beach just outside of the city. A private driver took a group of us north and for the first time this trip, I felt as if I were on an amusement park ride - but with a mixed range of emotions.

How easy it was for us to pull a few american dollars from our pockets, make a couple phone calls, and travel to a beach with no more pain. Escape to a somewhat familiar comfort zone seemed far too easy in comparison to the thousands of Haitian's who remain confined to a life of unimaginable suffering. 

Up until then, I could only imagine what that suffering looked like. The tent camps of Haiti are deceiving; rolling hills lined in blue tarps, masquerading the commotion and chaos of the lives beneath them. Driving by these settlements stirs up a mixture of uneasiness, mystery, and sadness - but all of which remain hidden to the streets and cars passing by. Little did we know that tomorrow we would have the chance to step behind the curtains and see life from the inside.

A city already bustling with people, after the earthquake hit, Port-au-prince became a vastly overcrowded and overstrained city. With the buildings leveled, space became scarce and living quarters dramatically shrank in size. No longer could they build on top of one another, instead, they had to spread wherever they could find space. This has resulted in one of the largest and unanswered challenges post-disaster: how do you rebuild a city when the people occupy all the available free space?

One of the failed solutions has been to create similar tent camps, lined with the same tarps covered in bold and unnecessary USAID logos. Sanitation and latrines are no more prevalent. Private space and humane living conditions are just as dismal. But worst of all, the people are no longer connected to the energy and markets of downtown. For many residents of the tent camps, they have still managed to operate small street-stands selling goods and services. But by relocating to the tent camps north of the city, they are left unconnected to the only means of sustaining their families - a tiny economy to provide income.

Yet for some reason, as our truck drives north, the dry and desert-like countryside around us are lined in tents. Their simply is no space left for people to go and even this unlivable terrain has found itself home to thousands of people.

But my curiosity remained, what was it like behind the blue-tarped walls?

The following day we had the chance to visit a friend of ours work within the tent camps. Rafeal had spent the past few months getting to know the families and people I was so curious to meet. He graciously took us up the street and into the world he has lived and assisted in tirelessly. Turning down the small pot-holled lined path into the tent camp was like entering a new country.

We entered a country with it's own economy full of business and service providers from hair salons to cyber cafes. A country with it's own government system composed of unsung leaders who emerged out of the rubble around them. A country with it's own pride in family who take care of one another through death and pain, hope and rebirth.

Passing by the residents, we turned up a road that passed under a few clotheslines and around small fire stoves before leading to a fence made of the country's main resource - plastic tarps. Behind the fence was the home of Genesis, his wife and baby daughter. Genesis is one of the camps' elected leaders and who lives in a unique transitional home designed by Rafael. Lined in corrugated plastic panels and attached to an erector set of aluminum beams, the home stands out as an entirely different way to handle future natural disasters.

As we are welcomed inside the home, I am impressed by the organized and efficient use of space within the split-level building. As we are talking, Genesis helps a friend unload some computers from the third story to begin repairing for the newly opened cyber cafe, and we begin to learn about the economy, politics and way of life within the camps.

After the earthquake hit and tents were erected, the people of Haiti began to organize themselves into communities of families. The particular tent camp that we were in was home to 30,000 people and was the second largest in Port-au-prince. Among the 30,000 people, the camp was split into 13 communities (known as committees) each run by a president and team of council members. Frequently the heads of each committee gather together to talk about the welfare of the entire camp.

As president of one of the committees, Genesis coordinates the work of the aid groups and makes sure everyone has access to water, shelter, food and a way to improve their lives. He knows everything that happens within "his family" and begins telling us the stories of life in the camp.

We learn about the 6 tents that caught on fire last month and burned a small baby alive. After the community chipped in money to help cover the cost of the funeral, he appealed to international organizations who refused to help them with the funeral. He talks about the political consequences of where they live. Because the tent camps are built on a mixture of private and government owned property, international organizations are unable to assist them because it acknowledges and encourages the residents to stay in the camps and therefore undermines the government who wants the people to leave the property.

We learn that he is the only one in the entire camp with a home elevated off the ground - which means that when it rains, he is able to sleep on a dry floor unlike the homes around him that are nothing but a tarp resting on a dirt floor which turns into mud when the rainy season approaches (starting in May). He tells us how he opens his home at night to all the families who are pregnant or with small children to come and sleep on his floor to escape the rain.

We learn that he takes great pride in the entrepreneurial spirit of his committee and their ability to find opportunity after such destruction. He tells us that the best way that outside groups can help them now is to provide jobs that create money and income for the people, rather than a free hand-out which kills their ability to sell their own goods and services. Of all the organizations operating in Haiti, World Vision seems to have one of the best programs designed to do just that and provide individuals with money in return for their help to clean up the city. But he wishes that they would work more closely with the political structure of the camps so that he can help oversee that the people who are most in need of a job receive the work.

But most importantly, we learn, and witness, the strong sense of community within these walls of plastic. It is the ability to extend their understanding of family beyond a group of 4-5 people to 3,500 people. And it is that trait which will sustain Haiti despite the lack of organized aid, despite the political and environmental uncertainties, and despite the unimaginable redevelopment challenges ahead. The people of Haiti have given me that hope, and I just wish that I can share that message with those who continue to support them.

peering through the blinds

A trail of ants defy gravity as they scale down the tarred and dirt-stained wall; yellow and tan chips of paint crumbling to the floor below. Beneath them, two mice dart across the floor as if attached to a child's toy race track, electrified by the pursuit and keenly aware of the commotion around them. The lizards above watch motionless on the scene below, much like a wise elder shepherding their flock and newborn sheep.

As the wind outside rustles the coconut leaves and sounds of early-morning church rolls through the window, a rooster sings his morning praise and welcomes the rising sun. The sunlight gently opens the metal blinds and breaks down a wall of iron and steel with peace and humility. The shadows begin to stretch along the walls and race their way to each corner and nook of the room.

As the light washes over my feet, up along my legs, and engulfs me in my entirety, I am renewed for the day ahead. And I am reminded of the pressing need for hope surrounding this place.

Much like the sunlight peering through the metal bars over my window, situations of immense pain and suffering require a gentle prodding of light to break through the scars that form over our hearts. With situations like the earthquake in Haiti, those scars are more evident on the outside. From the pain caused from loosing your entire family, to the anger and bitterness towards a less-than-perfect system to aid in your recovery - Haiti is a country with scars that are clearly visible. Raw and exposed to the world around them.

But each of us wears our own scars; and unlike clothing, scars are not something you can choose to take on and off depending on your mood. And many times, those scars are invisible to the world around us.

As I talk with the people of Haiti and those who have been here for a much longer time than my short trip - the need for peace, gentleness, and humility in dealing with these scars becomes so evident. Yet our human nature is to handle situations in such a different manner.

We often forget that God works on a different time frame than our earthly clocks. Whenever a disaster strikes, we all desperately want to provide hope and comfort to those affected; God included. But God doesn't hand out temporary or transitional relief - he offers eternal and lasting hope - throughout the entire process. And that kind of hope operates on God's time.

Sometimes our urgency for bringing relief to those in need results in rushing, forcing or dictating our solution for help, We see the scars over people's hearts and much like the metal blinds over a window, we feel as if we must forcefully tear them down to get to the root of the problem.

But God has a different way.

He brings in a ray of light - and patiently, gently, and humbly, breaks down the scars over the window. He doesn't use force, but rather offers a peaceful alternative. He doesn't act out of urgency, but rather out of necessity. Let us remember to reflect on the patience of God's ways and not force our help on others, or God.

story upon story

There are a lot of good people in the world. I'm talking about the kind of people who are willing to sacrifice themselves at all costs in order to help the greater whole. People who open up their homes to accommodate others. People who simply leave their homes to rebuild the homes of others. People who are willing to forgo the familiar comforts and stretch their bounds into the unknown.

Every time I am blessed with the opportunity to travel to another country and live the life of another culture - I am reminded by how many of these kinds of people there actually are in the world!

For the last few days, I've been living in Haiti and working alongside an organization called GrassRoots United. GRU does incredible work. They were in Haiti immediately after the earthquake hit and have been working ever since to unify the work being done by countless international aid groups. Not only have they been a tremendous asset in coordinating this work - but they have also worked tirelessly to ensure that their operations are eventually Haitian run - the current plan being to hand off operations by the end of the year to locals.

In the meantime, New Leaf has been working to assist GRU with our resource and talent base back home on a variety of projects. During our time here this week, we are working entirely on their base to construct proper toilets. As the base is home to numerous volunteers and partner organizations - two composting toilets often is insufficient for the growing demand - so we've been spending our days digging poop holes. It's not a glamorous job, it's doubtful to become a news headline, but it's one more important piece in the complex puzzle of disaster relief.

What I am quickly coming to realize in my short time in Haiti is that despite the sound bites and headlines we receive around the world - no situation like this could be summed up in a few words or pictures. Journalists and media can only do so much. This blog can only do so much.

I won't have the time to visit many places or talk with lots of survivors - but what I have been able to do is talk with those who have had those encounters over the past few months. And in just 3 days, I have come to appreciate the vast magnitude of stories upon stories that have arose because of the earthquake.
Stories of rappers who write with stinging truth to paint the scene of the refugee tent camps.
Stories of men who sneak into the women's health clinics to steal a simple bar of soap.
Stories of international organizations who refuse to provide food to refugees to encourage them to move to more permanent shelters.
Stories of young men and women who dream of creating opportunities for their children to travel and improve the lives of others around the world.
Stories of a land that no longer smells like rotting flesh.
Stories of a country that longs for peace and stability.
Yet stories of families who are no longer whole.

As I walk the streets of Port-au-prince, I am left mesmerized by the amount of rubble left behind from the quake. Each concrete chunk that I step over, each piece of brick and mortar crumbling from the walls are a reminder of how many stories surround this place.

But as my mind seems to fixate itself upon the destruction all around me, I hear laughing bouncing off the rooftops and cascading down the ally ahead of me. With each laugh, a child skips from rooftop to rooftop, gleaming under the star-lit sky.

I believe in a God that creates beauty from ashes. But while I may think and write about it, these children are living proof of that beauty.

live what we preach

I have been quite blessed to be surrounded by friends who learn to value people and group dynamics over the work they produce. It is refreshing to be reminded that it doesn't matter the work that our hands produce if we aren't concerned about the individuals affected by that work.

The last few weeks have been exciting for both New Leaf and PURE - lots of new connections and lots of new opportunities. As they continue to move forward, I have been reflecting more about my understanding of leadership, and how I hope to approach it on projects in the future.

One of the first role models I look to as an example of what it means to effectively lead people is Christ.

But the more I read about his life, the more I realize that his leadership style was so different from anything else of the day. He broke many rules and often did things his own way. He rarely scheduled meetings to teach, but rather used situations as they arose to teach those who happened to be around him. When people would ask him to come inside and heal the sick, he would occasionally say his time hadn't come yet and would wait or move on. And there were times when he would make people angry - even other leaders - because he wouldn't listen to their advice or suggestions.

But crowds were drawn to him. Not because he kept the rules and checked off all the tick marks, but because he lived what he preached.

He wasn't selling something and wasn't trying to build up a team of supporters - he was simply leading like he lived, and living like he lead. And I think that's one of the great traits of any inspirational leader - from Martin Luther King Jr. to Gandhi to Nelson Mandela.

This has been a re-emerging theme in discussions on the leadership teams at both PURE and New Leaf. They tend to care about the dynamics of a team, more than just the potential of an idea. Now granted the ideas are also quite powerful and compelling, but at the end of the day, it comes down to more than an idea - it's about people.

For the past few days, I met with the PURE team in NYC and we criss-crossed the city meeting with different groups and people telling them about the company. I won't get into all of the exciting details of the company (that will have to wait for another entry, or more likely, an entire book) - but the basic jist is that we are looking to create more than just a business, but a movement, within the entertainment and media industry to rid all of the crap currently there. We want to leverage the industry as a power for good and to spur sustainable social change. We want to shake things up, flip things inside out, and transform an industry into something brand new.

One of the common aspects of all of our meetings in a short few days was that we didn't have to sell much. And I don't believe it's because people immediately resonate with the idea, but rather because they see that our leadership team telling them about PURE are attempting to live what we are selling. As humbly as I can, I hope to be an example of what it means to live a pure life - and that's a tall order to live up to and I know I will fall short every day. But it's something worth striving for.

We're not trying to pull one over anyone, we're not trying to speak about lofty ideas simply to make another dollar, but we're trying to match the values and morals that resonate within so many of us into the structure and vision of a company.

We ARE the company - and just as Ghandi lived what he preached, we are trying to live what we are designing. That is a company I can get behind and an idea I am willing to share with others. Now let's see where the next few weeks lead...

deep and wide

One of the aspects of my life that I cherish above many others is the blessing I have had to share in the beauty and brilliance of so many other cultures. We are quickly becoming a society where the bonds and links between human beings are stretching beyond borders and into what once was deemed remote and foreign. What a privilege it is to usher in that transformation!

As exhilarating as it is to travel the world and speak face-to-face with those that you only hear about in books and news stories - it is equally exciting to share those insights with folks back home. My world traveling (and start of this blog) began back in 2007 when I visited Tanzania and Australia for a summer. It was the start of a journey that continues each year. And with each year that passes, I have slowly been adjusting better to that shock of returning back home and trying to share my learning with friends and family.

The first few times was hard, and my natural response was to remain quiet and keep my thoughts to myself. And although I still have that tendency, it is changing from a state of frustrated silence to one of selective ramblings. Thoughtful traveling and intentionally placing ourselves to serve others along the way results in lots of thinking, and I can see how it would take a lifetime to sift through all the questions that arise.

One of the threads that has remained consistent on each trip is the deepening of my faith in, and widening of my understanding of, God. I have come to see God's grace shine through every speck of our frailty and illuminate every corner of our dreams and desires. His love is not constrained to the language or laws of any one religion, and he desires for all of us to experience relationship with and through him.

I am beginning to fully comprehend the power behind the lyrics "...and my heart will sing how great is our God"

Along the way, I get lots of questions revolving around why I am still a Christian, if I am still, how my understanding of it has changed, and what I think is relevant or important any more?

Well, there's a lot of answers to questions like those, but the one that has been on my mind the most recently revolves around why I am a christian and why I feel it is so relevant and important for the world.

I believe that God is truly beyond our comprehension and limited understanding. And I believe that he (or she or it or however you'd like to refer to God or a higher power) has revealed himself to us in countless ways. From the aboriginal traditions of Australia as to how their country was formed to the visions and prophecies from countless individuals throughout history, I believe God works through many forms. And in different cultures, God is known in different ways. But in no way have I been able to accept that God is limited solely to the understanding of one culture - such as the one which I have grown up in through the Bible.

Yet I do believe the Bible reveals some incredibly powerful and revolutionary understandings - and it is these primary distinctions which lead me to continually pursue Christ with all my heart.

The sole distinction I find in the Bible is that God is a god of a relationship. He exists in relationship, thrives in relationship, and desires for us to be in nothing but relationship. This is the beauty of the trinity - and it changes everything!

One of the main themes that I encounter while traveling is that the majority of us still believe in the power of love. I've found it in smiles of Jamaicans and the hospitality of Turks. I've found it in the songs of orphans in Tanzania and the wisdom of Bedouins in Jordan. It may sound cliche, but love is what makes this world go round.

And although that belief is sometimes shaded or dirtied over, we still long for the good in situations and for love to shine forth. It is the spark of hope we find deep inside the darkness of each of our lives. And I believe it is this love which is at the core of God, in fact, God is nothing but love. Brother Rogers of Taize wrote that "all God can do is give his love" - he is incapable of anything else.

Yet love can not exist separate from relationship; they are two components of life - and God - which go hand-in-hand. And this is the revelation we find through the trinity.

For God to be nothing but love, he must have others to share that love with - otherwise it is meaningless and with no purpose. Love must exist in relationship. God must exist in relationship.

When we look at the life of Christ and his time with us through the Gospel, his message can be boiled down to one core concept - God is love and he desires to be in a loving relationship with us just as He is in a loving relationship with his son. Christ's life was an example of what it looks like to live in that relationship with God. That was God's message to the world - that's the part that he so desperately wanted to reveal to us and choose to do so by bringing his own son into the world.

Sadly, the religion of Christianity over the years has muddied the message of Christ and misrepresented it to the rest of the world.

What I find to be the most interesting thing to observe now is how so many Christians feel the strong desire to defend Christianity, to defend God. But if I had to guess, their interest is not in defending the message of God, but in defending their individual understanding of truth. We like to appear that our view is the right view - and don't like when others challenge that understanding.

My fear is that for too many Christians, as years tick by they grow deeper in their faith but forget to grow wide in their understanding of God. They feel a need to defend because they have focused all of their efforts on growing deep, without taking the time or effort to notice how wide God's message is stretched. It's like focusing solely on the concept of love without continually placing ourselves in situations to show that love to others. Or it's like spending our entire career to master calculus without realizing how it can be used to better the world.

God needs no defendant. He needs discoverers and followers.

I try to remind myself of that distinction each and every day, and I find these lyrics to beautifully sum it up.
Give me one pure and holy passion
Give me on magnificent obsession
Give me one glorious ambition for my life
To know and follow hard after You

To know and follow hard after you
To grow as your disciple in your truth
This world is empty, pale, and poor
Compared to knowing you, my Lord
Lead me on and I will run after you
Lead me on and I will run after you
We are all called to discover God in our own way and through our own cultures - but may we not let our depth in that discovery blind us to the revelations of others whose understanding may enrich our own journey. God is too great and too creative to restrict himself to one form of communication.

Personally, to help myself grow in that understanding, I am going to be reading through the Bhagavad Gita and the Koran this year, if anyone has other recommendations or would like to share thoughts back and forth among all these texts, feel free to get in touch with me!! I'm looking forward to an exciting 2011!

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