May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

I've seen a lot of war movies:  Mister Roberts, Casablanca, Dawn Patrol, et al. I never did see Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket.  I know war is hell; The Grand Illusion brought that home. But the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" helped me understand the sacrifice that men and women of the armed forces have made for us.

So, thank you to all the men and women who have fought and died to defend us -- not so that we can go see "Sex And The City 2" and own an iPhone 4G, but so that we can behave as responsible citizens in our world and in The World.

Speaking of memorials, please PRAY we don't end up watching the Gulf die. 

Images courtesy of NASA. More NASA Images Here. I'm actually afraid could die. Scientists fear the worst is  unseen.

May 28, 2010

Are commercials gender-biased?

Well, let's you decide!

May 27, 2010

Kid with Aspergers interviews his mom

Okay this is beautiful. It's from StoryCorps, an organization whose mission is: to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.

This is an animation set to a real interview: a 12  year old boy with Aspergers interviews his mother...

Q&A from StoryCorps on Vimeo.

I don't know anyone with Aspergers. When I first heard the word "Aspergers" five years ago, I knew very little about the syndrome. I actually wondered if my friend's husband had it, because he's wicked smart and painfully shy. He's also an incredible writer. But Aspergers comes with a web of social quirks, and my friend's hubby is not that. By the way, Bill Gates has Aspergers.

(Added later ) Per a comment below I should qualify the reference to Gates: there are thousands of links on the web that suggest Gates probably has Aspergers.  Dr. Temple Grandin, who is autistic, wrote as much here, on Only Gates or his doctor could verify that, and I'm sure he has other things on his plate.  It does point out how little we know about Autism/Aspergers. Staci, who also commented below, says her father has Aspergers, and he just has some social quirks. 

Please read Grandin's article, she points out how a child who is diagnosed with autism often gets removed from special programs, when actually, autistic children can have extremely high IQs.  And an autistic child who gets enrolled in, say, a class on computer science, can really thrive. 

May 26, 2010

Organ Hero, from Tripp and Tyler

Ah, more from the wonderful Tripp & Tyler

Think you've had enough of Guitar Hero? Here comes

If you have any problems viewing you can also find it here.

May 25, 2010

Say "YES AND..."

Last fall I got to do a video interview with Recycle Your Faith. We sat and talked for a couple hours, and they posted one clip a while back. Here's another clip ...

I was talking about a rule in improv: never deny what someone brings into the scene. Don't say NO BUT ... say YES AND ... here's how I try to apply it to faith ...

Just Say Yes from Recycle Your Faith on Vimeo.

Wonder if this rings true or false to you in your discussions with others, or as you wrestle with your own faith??

May 24, 2010

Be a Compassion Correspondence sponsor

As I blogged earlier, I was in El Salvador two weeks ago with Compassion International. It was inspiring to see how the Compassion program works to get kids out of poverty. They give them medical, nutritional and educational assistance; they teach them valuable skills they can take into the marketplace.  And they teach them how valuable they are, and how much God loves them. There's nothing blasé or self-satisfied about a church in a poor community.  They don't have the luxuries to buffer them from the truth: that we are all dependent upon God.   And they humbled me with their faith and love for God.

But it was heartbreaking to hear that some sponsored kids never get letters from their sponsors.  In fact, our new friend Alejandro told us he was sponsored for ten years and NEVER got one letter from his sponsor. He spoke about it a few times, and he always choked up. All those years the mail came, and his friends got letters. As a child he wondered what was wrong with him?

Well, there's a happy ending: Alejandro excelled scholastically and spiritually, and got accepted into Compassion's Leadership Development Program. Now a new sponsor is paying to put Alejandro through college! (I pray that sponsor writes him.) Who knows why sponsors don't write.  Maybe they don't think the child is interested. Or maybe they run out of things to talk about.  Maybe the kids don't write back, so they stop writing. Or maybe they don't feel comfortable talking about spiritual matters. In any event, many sponsored children don't get letters.

Well, there are many people can't afford the $38 a month. But they can write.

So here's a solution!

You can be a Correspondence Sponsor, and write to a child who doesn't get letters. They ask that you write three letters a year.

Call the Compassion International Call Center.  800-336-7676. Tell them you want to participate in the Correspondence Sponsorship program, to write to a child who doesn't get letters. Tell them that Susan Isaacs sent you. If they ask, "who the heck is she?" Tell them I'm speaker #111964.

Thanks for considering this.  I saw first-hand how much those letters meant to the kids.  I've sponsor a girl in Kenya for five years. Of course it's great to assist her financially; and how that I've seen the compassion program at work, I realize how much she needed our help.  But the letters I get back are a blessing to me. It's wonderful to see her grow and develop.

If the idea interests you, I know you will love doing it!

A stolen poem by Mary Oliver

I stole this poem off of Kristin Russell's fabulous blog,  Hair In My Coffee. Check it out, she is posting chapters of her upcoming novel, Recovering Ramona.

I first heard of Mary Oliver when watching a CSPAN program about poets.  Mary Oliver is Catholic. I'm always delighted to discover someone respected in their field, whose faith hasn't snuffed out their creative muse, or vice versa; but has fired it instead. This poem isn't Catholic or religious even, but it's definitely human.

The Journey
Mary Oliver

One day, you finally knew
what you had to do, and you began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice—
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

May 21, 2010

Lost Generation

My sister in law sent this my way. It's incredibly inspirational. It's a reverse palindrome of sorts.

I wonder: what do you think it will take for such a shift to happen?

May 20, 2010

El Salvador

For many years I thought about sponsoring a child. My sister and her husband had sponsored several Compassion kids over the years, and so had other married friends. I saw their photos on their fridges: smiling in their native clothes, holding up the shoes they bought with the birthday money their sponsors had sent. What a great thing to do, I told myself. Once I had a stable income, a husband and kids to share the experience with. At least, I needed my own fridge on which to tape the photos.

But my life never stabilized, I still wasn’t married, and I couldn’t afford my own fridge, let alone a house. When was it going to be a good time, if ever? In a burst of Thanksgiving inspiration, I logged onto My eyes landed on a photo of a Kenyan girl: teeny, forlorn, wearing a borrowed school uniform five sizes too big. She’d probably wear it for the next six years, if her parents didn’t have to pull her from school. (Per capita income in Kenya is $1700 a year, far above the per capita income for the poor. High school costs $500 a year. Do the math).

It’s been five years since I started sponsoring Helen, and it has been a privilege to watch her grow. Her letters reveal a girl emerging with a sense of herself, her place in the world, and her place in God’s kingdom. One Christmas I was able to give the family $300. She wrote to tell me they bought a cow, a goat, a bed, shoes and jeans for her, and a trip to the hospital for her grandmother. What would that same money have bought me? Three months of cable?
Two weeks ago I got to travel to El Salvador with Compassion, to see how the program works. Compassion seeks out communities in greatest need, partners with a local church, and sets up a center at that church. The program aims to provide physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual development so they can emerge as productive adults.

Womoen Make $5 A Day And that’s what I saw at the centers: children eating a good meal (maybe the only meal they’d eat that day), getting help with their school work, and learning usable skills like sewing, metal shop, and computer literacy. I also saw a lot of lively worship and faces filled with hope. For a child growing up in dire poverty, it’s a miracle for them to dream of becoming a doctor or a teacher or a secretary. If their parents are lucky to work, they make about $5 a day. The cost of living remains high: a can of Diet Coke is 65¢, or 15% of a day’s wage. Can you imagine paying $25 for a can of soda?

The miracle of these children’s hope became all too clear when we visited the homes where they lived. Most of them are built in what look like horse stables. Another was merely an improvised shelter next to a bank of a river.

The first home was run by Miguel, a single dad who was taking care of two sons, a niece, and his mother. He worked four jobs to keep afloat. Sometimes he came home just long enough to glance at his kids before leaving for the next job. Miguel asked what we loved about work. He listened intently, and then told us his dream would be to talk to people about Compassion. He’d witnessed how it had changed his sons’ lives, kept them out of the gang that had congregated across the street. Miguel had been Christian for 22 years. You could see the hardship on his face, as well as the hope. For all his poverty, he was rich in hope.

The dwelling against the river wasn’t as hopeful. There were seven people living there: three adults and four children. The walls made of random pieces of corrugated metal. Box springs jutted up out of the rocks to keep the kids from falling into the river below. Alicia And FamilyThere was a grandmother, a mother, and three children present. The mother, Alicia, had just joined Compassion’s Child Survival Program. The CSP will provide her and her baby with food, supplements, regular check ups, and education. Alicia said she enjoys taking her baby to play. You see, most of the women in this community don’t have a clean, safe floor on which to place a baby. Her five-year-old daughter, Graciela, is now old enough to get sponsored but hasn’t been chosen. When someone asked Alicia what her dreams were for her children, she didn’t understand the question. When you live in those circumstances you don’t dream. But as my friend Margot (who was also at the house) said later, if we came back in five years, she will have dreams. I think she will. The CSP program she attends is at Solomon’s church.

SolomonSolomon grew up in the slums with no father. But he was sponsored by Compassion. Today he’s a pastor and oversees seven local parishes in the area. A few days before he had no money and no gas to get to his job. “Then a lady from this parish handed me five dollars for gas. That’s a day’s wage.” Someone asked the pastor how he could live with such poverty. A smirk spread across his face. “Poor? My church isn’t poor.”

Boys At WindowHere’s something I will never forget: we were standing in a classroom observing some small children learn about Salvadoran Folklore. The building faced out onto a dirt road into the village. The window had bars but no glass, so someone on the street could look in and listen. There were three boys standing at the window, listening to every word. These were boys who wanted to be inside. They wanted to be there, learning. It struck me: they weren’t inside, because no one had sponsored them. I turned my face into the corner and cried.

One of my new friends, Alejandro, told me a story. Alejandro is 18 now, but when he was a child, he was that boy standing on the outside of the window. He wanted to go to school but his parents couldn’t afford tuition or uniforms for grammar school. One day at church a woman told his mom that she had a vision of Alejandro. He was wearing a business suit. Alejandro refused to give up on that dream. Eventually he was sponsored through Compassion. He excelled in school and at church. Last year, Alejandro and two other boys from this neighborhood were accepted into Compassion’s Leadership Development Program. They have received scholarships to attend university. Miguel is studying law, Nixon is studying computer science, and Alejandro is studying business administration. Here is a picture of Alejandro with his mom and sister. Notice he’s wearing a suit.

Kids It’s been five years since I started sponsoring Hellen. Since then I got married and moved into a house. We don’t own it, but we own the second-hand fridge on which her photo is tacked. We sponsor another boy through Children’s Hope Chest. We can’t afford cable TV, but we can’t afford not to sponsor these kids.

You too can do it. You can take that boy off the street and put him in a classroom. There are many organizations that do this work: Compassion, World Vision, and Children’s Hope Chest: which sponsors orphans exclusively. There are many other groups out there.  Check out  Half the Sky, a nonreligious group that works to lift the role of women in the world, by freeing them from common abuses such as sex trafficking,  forced prostitution; gender-based violence.

Sponsoring a child will change a community, one child at a time. It will change a child’s life. And it will change yours.

The kingdom of God is NOW. What are you waiting for?

Here are two videos. Author Margot Starbuck made the first; it sums up wonderfully how Compassion works. The next is a video inspired by Alejandro and the presentation his drama group gave for us.

May 18, 2010

Beatle-Activated Corgi

Oh my, this isn't even MY corgi! But this corgi seems to only respond to a Beatle accent.

May 17, 2010

Caption Contest

caption, anyone?

May 13, 2010

Sunday's Coming....

You probably saw the great satire video, "Award Winning Movie Trailer."  Someone at Northpoint Church must have seen it too; because they took the idea and ran with it, to satirize the modern worship service.  Spot on, funny til you realize how true it is.
Preach it, brothers.

"Sunday's Coming" Movie Trailer from North Point Media on Vimeo.

May 12, 2010

How To Speak Christianese

This was done by the Bel Air Drama Department. Pretty awesome.

May 11, 2010

Caption Anyone?

Care to try a caption?

May 10, 2010

Five Questions with Tyler Stanton

I got to meet Tyler Stanton at Catalyst West. He asked me some really odd questions

5 Questions You've Never Been Asked: with Susan Isaacs from Tyler Stanton