Good Links (The Welcome Wagon Edition)

Amber hopped a jet to the Caribbean last Thursday, though it’s not like it sounds. She and a few friends hitched their wagons to the star that is Help One Now and made their way to Haiti for the week.

It should come as no surprise to you that the boys (including this boy) get restless when Mama’s away. She’s brings balance to this house full of testosterone, and when she’s away, things sort of go the way of the man. What is the way of the man? Let’s just say that my boys have eaten more meat, imbibed more root beer, watched more action movies (appropriately rated, of course), have caught numerous fish, destroyed numerous household furnishings, and have irreparably clogged one toilet.

Yes we are well aware of our frailty, so when mama returned to save the day, the welcome wagon was ready to meet her. It went down as follows:

We’re glad Amber’s back.

With all my free time this week, what with raising four boys, work obligations, and a community gathering or two, rounding up good links was difficult. But such as I have, I give to you. Enjoy.

BOOKS

Late last year, I had an inkling that I needed to dive into the words of St. Francis. I put off said inkling, and instead chose to rip through three novels that were not spiritual and were certainly anything other than saintly. I digress. At the prompting of a friend, I picked up a copy of Francis and Clare: The Complete Works. Grammar aside, it’s busting my chops.

Know well that in the sight of God there are certain matters which are very lofty and sublime which are sometimes considered worthless and inferior by people; while there are other things cherished and esteemed by people, which are considered worthless and inferior by God.

Grab a copy.

LINKS

Tonia Peckover is one of my favorites. She’s one of the rare pearls of the internet, and has been stretching her poetry across the screen these days. She posted this piece on the Rwandan genocide memorial. Warning: take a deep breath before reading.

It’s Holy Week, the week Christianity commemorates the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Head on over to Deeper Story for John Blase’s piece Happy Easter Chuck.

I’ve loved all the posts that have come from Haiti, but none more than those from Laura Tremaine. She’s been honest with her misgivings and assumption. It been refreshing. She writes:

But how, then, were these children seeing us? As novelties? From the outside, did we look like poverty tourists? We had translators, but how can I know how we were actually presented? As the hours slipped by with children in my lap, it ceased to matter. The only person over-thinking this particular relationship between giver and receiver was me.

PHOTOS

Mike Rusch has been taking photos of the unsung heroes, those whose names you will never know.

Of this photo, he writes:

You’ll never know his name but he works with Haitian government to accept children into Ferrier Village that were rescued from Human Trafficking. The world needs more heroes like this.

VIDEO:

Were you there?

MUSIC:

Did you dig into The Oh Hello’s 2012 album, Through the Deep, Dark Valley? If you missed this one, here’s your chance:

Thanks for stopping in this week. See you soon.

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On Cigarette Ashes, Magnolia Blossoms, and Driver-Side Doors

I.

This is not so much a piece about marriage as it is about certainty, about propositional truth. In a certain sense, this is a piece about driver-side doors.

II.

At the wise old age of eighteen, I laid on a bed sheet under the midnight stars with a God-fearing girl; we flung dreams into the river of hot summer wind. She was supposed to be my first love. She was not–not really. She was, instead, the girl I was supposed to love, I being the youth group preacher-to-be, and she being the daughter of an upright minister.

We had a First Baptist kind of relationship, one that was more of a profession of faith than a profession of passion. The truth was–and boy, did we ever know the Truth…

Continue reading at A Deeper Story.

Featured image credit: “Magnolia” by THOR.

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On Addiction, Dependency, and One Less Despised Thing

1.

It has been 206 days since my last good drunk. In fact, it’s been as many days since my last drink altogether. The early days of beating back addiction are something akin to swimming up-waterfall in a river of tar. It’s long, slow, intentional, relentless, gutsy slogging.

2.

Words With Friends is a good game, and well-meaning folks love to play it with their addict friends. I don’t suppose this is a thing limited to those with alcohol dependency; I suppose the cutters, sex-addicts, pill-poppers, and those with eating disorders have noticed it, too. The well-meaning advice pushers offer wise words. “Just stop it,” they say, or “have you considered a twelve step program?” They ask whether you’re harboring secret sins, sometimes mistake your desire for solitude with the hiding of a bottle, a blade, or a barbiturate.

Friends of Job, what if I just need space to process?

3.

Addiction is a tricky bitch, which, after convincing you she is safe, jumps in your lap and nuzzles your free hand just before biting off the tip of your nose (despite your face).

4.

There were twelve men at a table, of which I was one. The head, with squinted eyes and cocked head, wondered aloud whether a drunk could take the Eucharist, wine and all. I chuckled, said, “my protestant Eucharist consists of tiny crackers and individual plastic chalices of grape juice; why not?”

He laughed, retorted, “no… but seriously.”

It is no laughing matter. Can’t all things be redeemed?

5.

St. Francis expounded upon the great teaching of Jesus–blessed are the pure in heart. He wrote, “[t]he truly pure of heart are those who despise the things of earth and seek the things of heaven, and who never cease to adore and behold the Lord God living and true with pure heart and soul.”

I read Francis to say, “blessed are the recovering addicts, because by their recovery, they have one less thing to despise.”

6.

A friend asked me yesterday what I’ve found in my ever-awakening sobriety. I told him that both spirits and the hope of spirits help keep anxiety at bay. Between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. a functional dependent can dull anxiety with his drug of choice. Between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., the same functioning dependent can overcome anxiety by fantasizing about the next fix. By comparison, the sober mind can have no fantasy, no hope of any anesthetizing agent. The sober mind has only the full illumination of all its anxiety, doubt, and pain.

This sounds like a terrible curse, save for that particularly overlooked promise of our little brother Johnny–if we walk in the light, as God is in the light, we have fellowship and are purified. And through the purification, awful as it may be, there is gratitude, joy, and peace.

Photo by by André Banyai, Creative Commons via Flickr.

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On Co-Laboring

“There is no American, African, or Asian way of breathing. There is no rich or poor way of breathing.”
~Richard Rohr, The Naked Now

I.

Amber woke me at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. “I can’t find your keys,” she said, which I reckoned less of the truth and more of an excuse to squeeze one last kiss out of me before leaving on a jet plane. “They’re here, right by the door,” I said, the a.m. annoyance in my voice unmasked. She grinned, shrugged, and hugged me long. “Pray for me,” she said.

I watched her pull from the driveway and turn into the street. She is a wonder of a woman, my wife; she is mother, writer, sometimes preacher, road-tripping traveler. She has a grand capacity for loving people–all people.

The taillights of the car veered left at the end of the street. I wondered how this trip would change her. I wondered if I’d recognize her when she returns from Haiti. She’s traveling to tell stories with Help One Now. They are good people who hope to stay small and serve big. It’s their grand ideal, and Amber is going to write it.

II.

When mama’s away, the boys will play, so we loaded up the mini-van and made our way to a ranch south of Fort Smith. The ranch sits in the heart of the Ouachitas, the pearl that fell from the mouth of the Ozarks. I’ve been coming to this ranch since I was a teenager, it being owned by a family from the church of my teenage years. The ranch is a broad swath of green pasture with a black pond in the middle. It boasts a million wildflowers, an awakening honeybee colony, and a mess of Longhorn cattle.

photo (2)

We spent the day there, fishing, shooting pellet guns, tromping through runoff creeks. Titus took off most of his clothes and ran circles around the pond in his crocks and saggy diaper. The boy was meant to run free.

My parents and I took turns with the children. My pop taught Ike how to cast beyond the reeds, how to zip the spinner through the thick mucky underbrush where the bass had bedded down. He practiced and practiced until he struck pay dirt and reeled in a two-pound smallmouth.

Jude and I worked the other side of the pond, talked about school, and girls, and mama’s trip to Haiti. I told him about the earthquake in 2010, how the people were shaken up, some were killed. “This world is always shaking one way or another,” I told him, “but God says that we are members of an unshakeable kingdom.”

“Is that heaven?” he asked.

“Yes, but it’s unshakeable here. The kingdom is here, even now. It’s in this spring, in the beauty of the sun over the pond. It’s in church, in sharing scripture with each other. It’s in our conversation. The kingdom is in us.”

photo (3)

I think about the unshakeable kingdom, how I am teaching it to my children while Amber is experiencing it in Haiti. There is a co-laboring here. Do you see it? I am with the boys so that Amber can be in Haiti, and Amber is in Haiti so I can be with the boys. My parents are with me so that my four hoodlums don’t overrun me. They are co-laborers, too.

We are symbiotic.

III.

This morning, Amber woke to the Haitian rooster calling. She woke where the smells of spice and sorrow mingled with the incense of joy and the sound of laughter.

I wonder what the people of Haiti will give her, what kind of water she’ll carry home. Amber is the most empathetic person I have ever met–hands down. If you came to our house bedraggled and thirsty, if you told her your gullet was parched to cracking, she’d make two glasses of water, one for you and one for her. She feels the pains of all others, takes them on as if they were her one. She has no doubt tapped into the joy, pain, and love of the Haitian people. This is her gift.

Last night, Amber wrote of the Haitian church:

Today we met Gaetan’s wife, and after nearly being blinded by the joy of her face after she had cooked a meal for 31 children, my eyes went straight to her feet. I have never so desired to kneel straight down and wash feet. They are not famous and don’t belong on pedestals. They are humble, desperate, persevering disciples of Jesus Christ. To know them is to respect them and to want to show them honor.

She’s honoring the stories of our brothers and sisters, our co-laborers in the good and coming kingdom. She is learning from the unsung heroes of our sister church.

IV.

Richard Rohr says that we have all been given the same breath–the breath of the living God. There is no us and them, rich and poor, Haitian or American. Those with the Spirit of God are all lesser brothers together, the humble co-laborers and bearers of the unshakeable kingdom.

I co-labor with my wife as she co-labors with the beautiful church in Port-au-Prince. My parents co-labor with me as we teach my children the value of service, of running free, of reeling in smallmouth bass. You co-labor as you pray for your families, for the international church, for your friends.

We are all in this together.

*****

Follow Amber, and our friends Sarah Bessey, Erika Morrison, and Sarah Markley as they write about Haiti for Help One Now. You can also follow their live tweets by following the hashtag #HONbloggers.


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Good Links (The Haitian Edition)

It’s been a crazy week here at the Haines house. On Monday, my tiniest buddy, an eight pound Yorkie-Poo rescue named Lucy, headed for the hills. She was in the back yard with my son and found a gap in the fence line. Seeing a squirrel on the other side, she squeezed her way through, and like a shot, she was off!

Amber called, panicking, and asked me to come home. She told me that Lucy had squeezed through the fence gap, had disappeared in a flash. Our dog had run away. I sped home and scoured the neighborhood, searching all its nooks and crannies. There was no sign of my best little dog, so I did what all good dog-lovers are supposed to do when their mutt heads for the hills. I made flyers titled “LOST DOG,” and plastered them on every stop sign in a 2 mile radius.

A friend saw the flyer, suggested I post it on Facebook. I figured the odd were low that the finder of my dog (assuming there was one) would see the Facebook posting, but when you’re desperate, you’ll do just about anything. Here’s where the story gets crazy. I am Facebook friends with the local weatherman’s wife. She saw the posting, and went to said local weatherman’s Facebook fan page and reposted it. I woke up the next morning to a message saying that one of his many fans had found my Lucy!

Now, for those of you who’ve been following my blog, you know that I’ve been pushing back against the internet a little. I’ve been writing some words on staging a coup against the power this electronic medium wields over us, about staging some great Analog Resistance. But here’s the truth: social media ain’t all that bad. In fact, sometimes it’s a Godsend.

Let’s round up some of the good links this week. What do you say?

Books

Kelley Nikondeha is a gem, and one peach of a writer to boot. This month, she has opened up the “Transit Lounge” (follow the link for more details) wherein she and a few friends (yours truly included) will be reading Walter Brueggemann’s book, Sabbath as Resistance. This book has a shotgun start, and is a quick little read that will reconstruct the way you think about the fourth commandment in this modern age. Brueggemann describes his book as being written

“to those who are ‘weary and heavy laden,’ made so by the insatiable requirements of our society--in its taxation for the sake of imperialism, in its social conformity that urges doing more and having more (now perniciously embodied in ‘teaching to test’), in its frightened intent that there should be no ‘free lunch’ for anyone, in its assumption that there is a technological resolution of every human problem, in its pathologies of greed and control.”

I think this is a timely read for the many who feel the grinding of life, the endless do, do, do, that grinds your soul down to a nub. Join us in the Transit Lounge!

Links

This weekend, Amber will be heading to Haiti with the grand people of Help One Now. She’ll be rolling with some of my favorites: Sarah Bessey, Erika Morrison, Sarah Markley, Mike Rusch, and Scott Wade (hello, Lion-man!). Today’s links are dedicated to these fine folks who’ll be serving their guts out and writing good stories to boot.

Read more:

Amber Haines -- On Broken Parts in Regular Towns: Alabama, Arkansas, and Haiti.

Sarah Bessey -- In Which I’m Looking for Subversive Hope.

Sarah Markley -- What is Possible

Erika Morrison (a/k/a E-$) -- i always make it personal.

Video

My friend Tim Willard (and his inimitable cohort, Jason Locy), are ready to launch their second book into the world. If it’s anything like their first book, Veneer, you won’t want to miss it. Check out the trailer for Home Behind the Sun: Connect With God in the Brilliance of the Everyday (pre-order now).

MUSIC

I’ve been continuing this process of recovery (ain’t that a loaded word?), and it’s been, at times, brutal. I’ve found a few things that help the urge to drink. Good prayer, good quiet, and good music. This week, I created a second playlist entitled “Recovery 2.” Check it out.

 

Thanks for stopping in this week! Have a brilliant weekend!

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