31 August 2008

of lingering emotion and shared burdens

Have you ever been somewhere that you can feel the weight of sadness around you?

I believe that there are such places, where emotion lingers in the air like a thick morning fog or a late afternoon haze.

I sit here in a Starbucks in the South Texas Medical Center, surrounded by doctors and nurses and patients of all kinds. They are in hospitals and offices, in waiting rooms and operating theaters. I imagine (remember?) the depth of concern that surrounds them all. I imagine their loved ones, laying attached to beeping, whirling machines. I imagine that many around me are reassessing, reconsidering, and generally regretting as they wait and hope that their mother or sister or brother or son might make it through the night. They wait and hope that they may see the other side of surgery, of terror, of disease.

This haze is thick and the burden is mine now as well. Maybe I share it because I can imagine (remember?) their grief. Maybe I share it because suffering is unlike any other human frailty. Maybe I share it because I believe that there are such places, where emotion does indeed linger...

29 August 2008

the beauty of community

When Stef and I lived in Africa, we lived in a house that contained up to a dozen Africans and rotating groups of Americans, New Zealanders, and Australians. That is to say, it was full.

We learned a new sort of community there, one that is not so easily found in the private manner of your average American city. We shared everything, from dishes to clothes to food and money. And it was glorious.

Moving back to America was a little scary insofar as we knew that we would lose that to some degree. I am thankful to say that our new neighborhood has become our new community and that our African ways have translated quite nicely to our new home.

We were blessed to fall into a house that also included a guest house (all 700 square feet of one, anyway). So, our friend Tiffani (and her precious dog Immie) needed a place to call home and the marriage seemed perfect. We carpool with her and eat Sunday lunch together as a family. She helps us pay the bills and we help her stay warm and safe in a city that no longer has any family here for her.

Our friends Daniel and Anna moved in a block away and we share fruit and casseroles, in addition to shovels, paint, and Saturday walks to the nearby taqueria for breakfast. I can imagine that we will only share more as the days go by.

It seems that we have all things in common...

I guess what I am saying is that it's all pretty cool. Now we have to find a way to enfold the other neighbors, the ones we didn't know when we moved in. We'll have them over for a front-yard BBQ on National Night Out in October.

And maybe a few more friends will move in to experience this incredible life with us. There are a couple of houses available on our street. We'll let you use our mower and weed-eater. And maybe you'll have a hedge-trimmer that I can spend a few hours with...

28 August 2008

our old, creaky house and a greater breadth of experience

We love our house.

It is old. It is small. We aren't close to nice malls or expensive restaurants. There aren't a whole lot of people around that look like us. To top it all off, we have heard a couple of gunshots from the surrounding neighborhood in our 3+ months in it. (It should be noted that 2 or 3 distant gunshots in 3 months is like living in perfect security for us - our nights in Joburg were routinely punctuated with gunshots and/or nearby gun-battles.)

Despite some of the negative things that some folks might find, we love our house. We love the community. We love the lake and the walking trails. We love being 2 miles from downtown. We love the commute, going out when traffic comes in and going in when traffic drives out. We love the intimacy of our 1100 square feet. We love the little guest house that lets our friend be our neighbor. We love just about all of it.

Among the features that make our house fun is the pier and beam foundation, which basically means that, unlike most modern homes built on solid concrete slabs, our home is resting on a glorified erector set.

There are most certainly critters that decide to take up residence under our house from time to time. There is (we are told) the occasional issue with certain rooms "sinking" or floors sloping gently. And yet, even though it is a vulnerability, I really sort of like it.

During the aforementioned thunderstorm (see Monday's post), I could feel the thunder rumbling in my feet, giving it an entirely new sensation in my bones.

It is something to really experience a thunderstorm, consciously taking in all of the elements. The smells and the sounds are invigorating. The sight of the rain falling so hard so as to bruise the earth below is gorgeous. This last thunderstorm, maybe for the first time, I was aware of more than just the sound of thunder - I experienced the feeling as it rumbled through me and our 80-year old house.

So now I have one more reason to love our house...our old, creaky floor lets me feel a thunderstorm...

Strange as it seems, maybe being aware of our vulnerabilities opens us up to entirely new paths of experience, to an even greater breadth of life. What else is out there that is not really a hardship, but an invitation to a greater breadth of experience?

27 August 2008

what's in a name: blogging baby burkholder

What's in a name?

While Stef and I wait for our little biscuit to finish baking in her belly, we have the tremendous job of selecting a name for our daughter. It really isn't that big of a deal. She'll only have it the rest of her life and all.

Some people name kids names that mean something or that honor a family member. Some kids get popular names or names that sound cool. Some kids are named for success and others to be unique. (I once proclaimed that I would name my firstborn son "Abraham Jefferson Rockefeller the 3rd" in order to guarantee personal success...)

As for our search for the perfect name, we go back and forth...on names on spellings...on African names and American names...

I know this much. We are naming her with purpose. We intend to create a teaching point in her name, a place where stories can be told that reflect the grace and mercy and beauty of God. That way, when she asks us, "Why did you give me my name," we will have an answer that points to the Father.

25 August 2008

donate your vote

I voted in 2004. I waited in line like the rest of America. When I got to the booth, I wrote in my choice. I voted for a Nazarene. I never heard his name announced on the news, nor did I find his total tally of votes in any newspaper.

This year brings another election and another chance to cast a ballot. I have to imagine that most people vote for the issues that are most important to them, whether that is taxes or the environment or unemployment or foreign policy. I have to imagine that God's issues are more important than mine.

So, what issues matter most to God? Which candidate stands against injustice and champions the "least of these"? Which candidate gives an African child a better chance of survival? Which candidate gives an Iranian family a better chance at peace? Which candidate gives a Mexican woman a better shot at dignity? Which candidate loves his neighbor simply because he is a neighbor and not because he has something we want? (I almost made a joke about which candidate knows how many neighbors he has, but that would have required that each candidate knows how many houses he has...I guess I made it anyway, huh?)

What if we watched the candidates in the debates and watched with a different set of eyes? Would we vote with a different set of values? We are told to take care of the least of these. What if we voted for them? What if we gave them a voice? What if we sacrificed our own interests (of wealth and security and the American dream) in order to breathe life into the dreams of the billions of starving and diseased people in this world that need America to be less powerful and more graceful.

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control.

Which candidate better represents those attributes?

I imagine that I might again go to the polls in protest. I might again write in the name of a King, in a land where our monarchy (did you think it was a democracy?) has given us 20 years of someone either named Bush or Clinton.

Or, this year, I might donate my vote. Will you donate your vote with me?

If you will, stand and be counted:
Donate Your Vote: Donate Your Vote.

of thunderstorms and nourishing rains

Who doesn't love a good thunderstorm?

Sunday afternoon, I was watching soccer (in Espanol, of course) when a deafening clap of thunder broke through and shook the house. Got my attention. TV off, chair on the porch...

I set myself up to watch the lightning and feel the thunder. I watched as a jogger raced by, under assault by the first raindrops of the oncoming storm. Then, all of the sudden, the skies opened and the rain fell, so much so that my chair on the covered front porch was being soaked - with me in it. I had to abandon my plans to enjoy the rain. I was forced to flee inside.

Sometimes the really strong storms are hard to appreciate. They are too fierce to stay still in their midst. They force movement and they often change our plans for us.

What is funny is that right before I ducked inside, I noticed our new litchi tree, swaying in the wind and soaking up the rain. And it hit me. The storms can be moments of great growth. The storms can be places of incredible strength. The storm brings the pain, but it also brings the cleansing, nourishing rain. Each storm prepares us for the next stronger storm.

Life is easy when everything is working out. But storms do come and we occasionally have to flee. And it's OK to run. As long as you look back long enough to appreciate the growth that is taking place as you go.

22 August 2008

links for the weekend and some fun with white people

Some links for your weekend (or your workday or maybe just your general enjoyment)...

White people are stupid. There, I said it. Luckily, there is a beautiful blog that tells us how white people are stupid, only in a really clever and minimally condescending manner. And, yes, I am white and I approved this link.

And just in case you needed a specific white person to call stupid...you can get in line behind his campaign manager...

Since I can't be the only person who delights in reading about the way that it's all falling apart and how the suburbs are to blame: this post.

Another article from the NYT
that spells out how our newfound trouble with Russia is both fascinating and terrifying all at once.

And an Op-Ed piece that expounds on how stupid everybody has been to get us to this point.

One key point to make about everybody that is at fault in the situation with Russia...you guessed it - all whities.

South Africa's World Cup 2010 hopes are alive and optimistic.

Because you all want to know what's next for Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson.

Another Kindle believer comes out of the closet as the momentum picks up... And he notes that the Kindle is environmentally wonderful. You could have latest editions of the Financial Times, New York Times, and Washington Post all delivered to your Kindle at 4:30am every day and never use a shred of paper - and you'd pay about as much for those three as for your local paper subscription...

Just in case anyone else cares about the MLS...an article outlining the expansion possibilities.

A very interesting new solar cell is being developed, creating power from virtually anything that emits heat.

The next book on the Kindle screen may be Crazy Love. It got high praise from a trusted source.

Don't tell anyone, but there may be a success story brewing in Africa.

Just because I can...Grace Point (our local church) is going to a 3-service format on Sundays. They now have church at 9:30, 11, and 12:30. And Olympic gold-medalist Josh
Davis will be speaking at all three services this weekend.

Since we all needed to know what those guts were inside the fake Bigfoot.

I don't know about you, but I am afraid to drive when 18 year-olds are drinking Red Bull, much less alcohol. This proposal seems like it might open the floodgates.

Speaking of alcohol, would you drink wine from the fabled hills of Michigan?

What's the deal with Windows Vista...?

And finally, since I started out the links making fun of white people, here is one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes (a show about white people) - The Frogger - cut down to 7 incredible minutes.

Enjoy the weekend.

21 August 2008

of feeding trees, east st louis, and nastia liukin's sneer

After we planted the litchi tree in the front yard, I had several people tell me when to start “feeding it”. I resisted this language altogether, as the idea of feeding a tree seemed foreign…and a little stupid. But is it?

Are trees like humans? (Now I realize that this is a limited metaphor, but I am going to go with it…) Would a tree raised only on what nature provides be stronger and more resilient? Conversely, would there be any damage done by babying the tree a bit? Would I raise a spoiled, soft, selfish tree that didn’t understand the larger fabric around it? Would the first stiff wind knock it down?

I guess this all came up in my brain as I watched the Olympic Track and Field events on Tuesday night. Stef and I watched as Dawn Harper won the gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles. Dawn Harper was an unlikely winner, as the prohibitive favorite stumbled over the 9th hurdle and finished 7th. Harper was also an unlikely winner due to her personal circumstances.

Dawn Harper comes from East St. Louis, Illinois, a suburb just across the Mississippi from St. Louis, Missouri. East St. Louis happens to be one of the most dangerous and downtrodden cities in America. Murder rates are double those of New Orleans. Half of the residents under 18 years old live below the poverty line. Per capita income hovers just above $10,000. Not exactly a place that screams opportunity.

So, after a week of watching teenaged specialists dive and tumble and generally amaze the world with the skills they acquired with years of expensive private lessons and personal training, it was exciting to watch a girl from East St. Louis standing on top of the world. It was a victory for people all over the world who grow up without their own diving coach or gymnastics studio. It was a victory for anyone who lacks an Olympic-medal-winning Dad or a blank check to throw at swimming-centric boarding schools. It was a victory of resilience.

Many gold-medal winners talk about their feelings of validation, about all of the hours of work finally paying off. They speak as if that chapter of life, of pursuit and determination, is finally closing. I like to think that Dawn Harper will talk about her triumph differently, as a beginning. I imagine that kids all over East St. Louis walk a little taller today, hopeful that even poor kids can accomplish great things. Maybe she’ll speak at a few school assemblies and tell the kids about her time at UCLA and how her education means more to her than even the medal. Maybe a few more kids will attempt to use natural athletic ability to find empowerment in education. Maybe…

None of this will change the fact that the poor have a much deeper hole to climb out of than the rich, at least when it comes to finding success as the world judges it. But for a little while, there will again be hope of something brighter, something greater. And there is nothing as powerful as hope.

So, I continue my debate. Should I buy special food for my little litchi tree or care for it more simply? Do I want a Nastia Liukin tree, sneering at other trees and dissatisfied with anything but the best? Or do I want a Dawn Harper tree, humble and happy and feeling lucky to win anything?

You know, I am beginning to wonder if this is about the litchi tree at all…

20 August 2008

dynamics of power and the olympic distraction

Am I the only person who thinks the dynamics of power in the world are changing before our eyes - and we're too distracted (self included) by gymnasts and steeplechasers to notice?

What I am Talking About...

19 August 2008

a gift for my friend

Every so often a man comes along with the ability to truly inspire those around him.

I more or less stumbled into a church some years ago that was being led by such a man. He didn’t blow fire and brimstone from behind a marble pulpit. He wept with passion on a threadbare stage as he told of the love of Christ that had rescued him from the deep. He didn’t wear expensive suits and or pay heed to important people. He wore jeans (and an occasional kilt) and decided that the most important people were the ones who sat in the seats on Sunday morning, regardless of their power in the community or their ability to write a check that didn’t bounce.

The older I get, the more thankful I become that God has placed him in my life.

I have cried with him in his office as I told him that I didn’t know why, but I knew I needed to be in Africa. He suggested I go live with a pot-bellied white African named Willie.

I cried with him as he and I watched my bride come down the aisle. He would pronounce us husband and wife, shortly before my new bride would fall down the steps 8 seconds into our marriage. “First step’s a doozie,” he said.

I sat with him in his office as he picked Stefani up off the floor of despondency, counseling and loving her into a place of forgiveness and understanding when a relationship of hers was all but over. My eyes were quietly opened that day to the power of unbiased grace.

I sat on the stage of his church one Sunday morning after he challenged the church to write dreams on balloons and let them go, symbolically floating to God above. I could hardly speak that morning. My balloon said that I knew I wasn’t done in Africa. Not too many months later, he would put his hands on me and pray that both Stefani and I would be powerful tools of the Almighty in a dark and dangerous Johannesburg.

From Africa, I would cherish the chance to get onto the internet to listen to his sermons, not so much for the teaching (though it was good) but more for the wild-eyed passion that would come through in a voice that was 10,000 miles away. I would later cherish an email I got from him in Africa in which he humbly restored an emotional canyon that a simple misunderstanding had created in me.

And recently, home and settling and without a ministry to call my own, he is again my counselor and friend. He calmly listens and quietly assures. “There is a place for you,” his eyes seem to say.

This man receives more credit than he probably wants, but much less than he deserves. He is the idealist that has learned to live in reality, but never in step with it. He is the father that unapologetically raises his kids to champion mercy and grace and service over all else that the world might teach them. He is the husband whose wife still blushes when she talks about him. He is the pastor who, when he fails, fails with a beautifully humble apology. He is the leader who, when he succeeds, gives all credit away and watches as eternity is forever changed.

Jeff Harris celebrated a birthday recently. And I don’t know how many people noticed that he’s been serving us another whole year. I noticed. And I wanted to tell him thanks as obnoxiously as possible. More importantly, I wanted to give him a gift that could never get old. So, please help me give him that gift.

If you know Pastor Jeff…if he’s touched your life anything like he has mine…I want to encourage you to write him an email. jharris@gracepoint.org He’s a sucker for great stories. Tell him how he’s impacted your story. Tell him, whether big or small, the difference he’s made in your life. I pray we’re able to overwhelm him by pouring the grace and joy he has given us back onto him.

I pray he might he the echoes from above that I know are already waiting for him:

“Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Love you, Jeff...

18 August 2008

oh litchi tree, oh litchi tree...

I've been reading a good blog recently. The author doesn't post every day. He doesn't talk about politics or sports. He doesn't reference pop culture and he probably will never be famous. He mainly blogs about his garden and it's parabolic nature. He finds joy and beauty in working and getting dirty and nurturing things from the dirt to his dinner table.

So, perhaps a little bit drunk from my talks with Travis and reading about Getting Back to the Garden, I decided that I needed to buy a little tree. And while I was at the nursery, I ran across a litchi tree (sometimes spelled lychee), which happens to produce Stefani's favorite fruit from South Africa.

I talked her into the idea that it was a good investment and a good way to stay connected to Africa (sigh) and we went back out to the nursery to select our new addition to the family. And there were only two little guys there - both pretty pitiful and one $10 cheaper than the other. I wonder which one we chose...

We got home with our little piece of Africa (which is actually native to China - cue the Olympic theme song) and we picked out just the right spot. Then we got to work (which consisted of me digging and Stef pretending like she was working by posing for pictures with yard equipment) and got our tree into the ground. We made sure that it had plenty of good soil and a big gulp of water and we covered it in mulch so it could dominate it's little spot on this earth.

Now, we nurture and wait. If all goes well, we'll be eating the last of our litchis this time next year. And maybe I'll have learned a little bit about growth and God in the process.

17 August 2008

doo bee doo too (part two)

Yesterday, I shared an infectious song and video from FreshlyGround.
Today, just because, I'm sharing the same song - different video, different version.

(You subscribers on readers and email may not see the YouTube video in the version sent to you - just click the title to come to the actual page...)

Sometimes Stef and I just have to find ways to stay connected to Africa, South Africa especially. This music and this joy is one of the purest ways we have...we hope you enjoy half as much as we do.

16 August 2008

doo bee doo

Do you ever just want to immerse yourself in something light and wonderful? Do you ever just want to be infected with positive joy? This is a song that could do it...
FreshlyGround are supremely talented South Africans, reveling in the joy of still newfound freedom.

15 August 2008

the psychiatric infrastructure of the city

I want to connect you to a great post from BLDGBLOG. It is about the psychiatric infrastructure of the city and how what a city builds or does not build can deeply affect its residents and how they live, dream, and feel.

Fascinating insights and some interesting questions raised...

The Psychiatric Infrastructure of the City

14 August 2008

olympic observations

A few observations from the Olympics (thanks to Dr. Impelman for the inspiration):

- How many "national celebrities" are the announcers going to tell us about from the different diving teams? Am I really supposed to believe that a diver from Canada gets recognized on the street or gets preferential treatment at local restaurants?

- Speaking of diving, why is Nancy Grace doing the commentary? Could she be more ruthless?

- And while we're on diving, am I the only one that is a little bit uncomfortable that they have showers and a hot tub?

- Do all of the references to Chinese athletes being "disciplined" strike anyone else as veiled military threats against the rest of the world? Do we realize that they could lose 300 MILLION people in a battle and still have 1 BILLION people to throw at us?

- Why do the competitors in judo wear bathrobes?

- I think we all noticed that China robbed a third grade class of its best athletes for its gymnastics squad... Let's move on.

- Has anyone seen a shot of Bob Costas where he didn't have smog hanging thickly behind him? Is that OK?

- There should be a mandatory punch-in-the-gut for whoever gets the silver medal. Does the winner of silver ever look satisfied?

- Can we go ahead and give Michael Phelps every medal ever created? I think he just won the rights to my unborn daughter in the 400 meter butterfly.

- Why hasn't NBC shown more of the steeplechase? I demand steeplechase!

- And why hasn't NBC mentioned Russia crushing Georgia in battle? Did Russia know that war isn't an Olympic event? Are we just going to ignore the elephant in the room on that one? They invaded a neighbor this week!! Ya, America has no room to talk since we are still "helping" Iraq, but if this kind of stuff flies in the international community, I really think Vancouver and Toronto would make fabulous US cities. Anyone with me?

- The US men's soccer team lost to Nigeria and has to go home early. The Nigerian team had superior motivation - the team gets to eat as long as they keep winning.

- How many Olympic-ring tattoos have you seen? Like, a million?

- Is there a way to watch an entire swimming competition from underwater? I think that would be much more fun.

- Anyone besides me see the Brenden Fraser mummy movie trailer? At least his work is varied...

- There are a lot of empty seats at some of these Olympic events. Did somebody say that China has 1.3 BILLION people? Do you think maybe they would like to watch the games? Aren't some warm bodies better than empty seats?

- At the risk of being wildly unpopular, I would like to say that beach volleyball is exceedingly boring and a lame excuse to show women in bikinis.

- Can we just stop with the "Redeem Team"?

- Am I the only person who could do with a few less "inspirational" backstories? I must say, though, that I did like that the African-American swimmer (which one, you ask...the only one) almost drowned when he was five years old. Makes sense that he would be an Olympic swimmer.

- Finally, why can't they televise the Special Olympics or the Paralympics? I would watch those backstories and actually be inspired. I would cheer and weep and be thrilled for every last athlete. And they would deserve every last bit of my applause. But I guess those athletes won't wear bikinis.

13 August 2008

one minute to midnight and the new and eerie echoes of the cold war

So I have been reading this...

And then I read about this...

A little scary. Just a little bit eerie. Are we slipping? I'm just sayin'...

12 August 2008

the olympics and the only sport worth watching

Last check of the Post-Karmic Stats showed that people all over the world are reading this blog. Or at least they are accidentally stumbling onto it via Google Images or something. Same difference, right?s

Regardless, of the last 100 page-loads, you, the reader, have come from Canada, Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, Kenya, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, China, Turkey, Germany, Luxembourg, and Great Britain...

What better time, I figured, than now to tell you what you should be watching during the Olympics. Everybody has their favorite event. Gymnastics, swimming, judo, steeplechase... Your new favorite should be soccer. Why, you ask...?

Soccer is the only Olympic sport where every major continent has a chance to win the gold medal. Seriously, do the research. Tell me of another sport where a legitimate shot is had by all? Then go down the list: Africa is represented. So are North and South America, Asia, Europe, and even Oceania. For me, that makes soccer the best. I will be cheering on Cote d'Ivoire. And you?

11 August 2008

and now for something completely different

So, sometimes I try to take everyday occurrences and find ways to locate that deeper meaning or that larger lesson that they hold within. As best we know, Jesus did much of his teaching this way (in true rabbinical style). Life happened and the rabbi used it to teach larger truth.

I am not attempting to draw comparisons between myself and Jesus or rabbis. I am merely using the above paragraph to lead into a confession about today’s post:

This story has no redeeming value, except that it is possibly humorous and probably a little strange. It is Monday morning and we could all use a little bit of nonsense.

A week or two ago, I was at my desk eating a McDonald’s salad. (I usually bring PB&J to work, but woke up late and was forced to venture out for sustenance.) And eating in a cubicle allows an employee a brief moment to catch up on the day’s news. Unless something pressing is happening at work, people around my office generally surf the internet while eating. I do the same.

So, I was reading something stupid (probably about Beijing smog or Nigerian militants or urban planning in Brazil) and eating my salad. And I take a bite and CRUNCH!!!!

(Internal dialogue: No way, I couldn’t have…Impossible…Yup, there it is…I really just did that…)

I looked down at my plastic fork. Half of it was missing. I had somehow bitten my fork so hard so as to break the entire thing off. (What is going on in my subconscious that could make me so aggressive…I mean, I was engrossed in my reading, but it was enjoyable and relaxed reading…I’m a little creeped out just thinking about it all.) Only slightly embarrassed, and yet to chew this plastic-infused bite, I looked around the office and realized no one had noticed a thing. After politely disposing of my horrifying fork-bite, I continued eating my salad, stabbing the bits with my half-fork and eventually resolving to see a psychiatrist.

Now you know.

08 August 2008

of painting, parabolas, and blind inference

Are you ever living life (or watching it happen around you) and you think of what a great metaphor it is for something larger? Some folks used to teach this way. They saw a sheep fold and told us of how His Kingdom works. They saw a farmer sowing seed and used it to explain how our lives are sown and what the implications are of where we sow them. Preachers still live on this method. People at my church have heard more cycling stories (and related metaphors) than any other church in history. But it works. It paints the picture better than simple words.

I tell you stories of elevators and baby news and generally mundane life events and somehow there is something larger we can all take from it. These are parables, in a sense, related comparisons, story-telling devices.

I often run across things and wonder if there is an applicable parable in it. I ask myself, “Is that parabolic?” I used the term privately, since I was both unsure of its accuracy in that context and since I was probably the worst math student in the history of Robert E Lee high school (not to mention the fact that I flunked “Math for Artists” at UT before retaking the identical class with the same professor and managing a “D”, leaving me with a cumulative Mathematics GPA of 0.5).

Finally, I sought out the etymology of the words and found that parabola does indeed come from the same root (Greek parabole) or at least that “parabola” grew off the same branch of the tree that our modern “parable” eventually found itself.

Parabola - 1579, from Gk. parabole "parabola, application"

Parable - c.1325, "saying or story in which something is expressed in terms of something else," from O.Fr. parable, from L. parabola "comparison," from Gk. parabole "a comparison, parable," lit. "a throwing beside," from para- "alongside" + bole "a throwing, casting," related to ballein "to throw." Replaced O.E. bispell. In V.L. parabola took on the meaning "word," hence It. parlare, Fr. parler "to speak."

So, having blindly inferred your permission, I will now use the term “parabolic” more freely. I will encourage you to seek parabolic moments in life and to keep your eyes open for parabolic pictures as we all continue to live in these complicated parable-machines called lives.

07 August 2008

we're all going to die: or how i found donut holes to be exactly like velociraptors

"We’re all going to die."

Usually, that phrase is uttered right before a catastrophic moment in a movie. Aliens are landing, the bomb is being dropped, the infection has mutated, the velociraptors have escaped their paddock…Whatever.

I’m saying it now and this is real life. We’re all going to die.

I just finished half of a “cup” of Krispy Kreme Donut Holes, purchased for $1.79 at my local Exxon. And I think I am dying as I type. I don’t really know why I purchased the donut holes, but I did. And as I was popping one after another in my mouth, I read that the half a cup I just ate contained half of my fat intake for the day. Half. And about 500 calories. And 40 grams of sugar. Gulp.

Don’t get me started on the ingredients, of which there are only about 400.

What have we been doing in our society that made this ok? Who has been asleep at the switch here? Sweet fancy Moses, what is going on?!?!?

I am actually partly amused by this gruesome discovery. I did buy breakfast at the convenience store. And, considering that the “cup o’ holes” fit into my cup-holder, maybe I got exactly what was promised – convenience. I don’t suppose the “Good-For-You Store” has any cup-holder based products at all, much less donuts. So, in the end, I have no one to blame but myself (and whoever was asleep at the switch, of course).

Enjoy your convenient donut holes, everybody. I have a half a cup left for anyone who wants them. Maybe I’ll just add some sugar and creamer and drink ‘em down. After all, we’re all going to die, some of us (especially those of us with donut-bits blocking our arteries) much sooner than others.

I will now go eat a punch-bowl full of spinach.

06 August 2008

getting off on the wrong floor

I did it again today.

I exited the elevator, took about three steps, looked up, looked around, and then it hit me. Wrong floor. Idiot!!

Ever happen to you?

I always blame it on exterior forces. The elevators are painfully slow (I really think there is a 93 year-old man operating the thing with a traditional pulley system down in the basement)…I was engrossed in the document I was reading…It’s Monday morning – of course I am out of it…blah, blah, blah. There really is no excuse.

I think this sometimes happens in our lives. I think we sometimes find ourselves in a place we never really intended to be. Sometimes the door closes behind us and we’re forced to make do with the situation we are given. And maybe that’s a really good thing. Rather than attempting to script every aspect of our lives, it might be refreshing to close our eyes and hit a button on life’s elevator. Truth tells us that there is something to learn every time the door opens, regardless of whether it was the floor we intended to get off on or not.

05 August 2008

the cone of uncertainty

Did you know that it was hurricane season? I remember that, at least around my house as a child, hurricane season was a pretty interesting time. We were all sure that my older brother was going to be a meteorologist, as he not only was glued to the Weather Channel (ah, the early years of cable) but he had a dry-erase “Hurricane Tracker Map” on the wall of the garage which he used to plot the movement of the storms as they roared towards landfall. Being infatuated with everything my brother did, I naturally shared his enthusiasm. It was also typically 137 burning degrees outside so this helped chew up some of the day.

At that time, nothing was more exciting than when a storm was approaching landfall. The Weather Channel would send some poor intern out onto the beach at Hilton Head or Homestead to get pounded by the wind and the blowing surf. He would be blowing around and getting pelted by sideways rain and telling the audience things they could probably see for themselves (“The winds are really starting to pick up here”). Before reality TV existed, that was as real as it got. And we would watch for hours.

Well, times are busier now, but hurricanes still find a way to entertain. Now we are privileged to have (cue threatening music and booming voice here) the CONE OF UNCERTAINTY. Nothing is more exciting than a (threatening music – “Duh duh duh!!”) CONE OF UNCERTAINTY. I mean, how great is it that in this life where everything is planned out and programmed that there can still be something so menacing as a (“Duh duh duh!!”) CONE OF UNCERTAINTY to cause us to wonder and fear and check Weather.com every 20 minutes just to see if the track has changed.

I, for one, love the Cone of Uncertainty and wish there was a way to extrapolate it to the rest of life. The Green Bay Packers could have the Brett Favre Cone of Uncertainty. College students could have a Dating Cone of Uncertainty, although, on second thought, that would bring up all kinds of “making landfall” references and I don’t think I want to be the one to get that started.

No matter. It’s hurricane season. Enjoy the show. And enjoy the (“Duh duh duh”) CONE OF UNCERTAINTY!!

04 August 2008

of responsibility

Where does responsibility begin?

If you have a child, it becomes your responsibility, right? The child gets sick, needs care, whatever… You are responsible. What if something tragic happened to your sibling who has children – do their children become your responsibility? What if a neighbor’s child is suddenly in need? Is that your business? What if you hear of a child in your church that is desperately in need? A child in your city? Your region? Your country? Your world?

You see, somewhere in there, there is a line for all of us. Because, obviously, there are millions of starving, disease-infested children in this world that could really use a little bit of help.

We hem and haw and I think we generally have great intentions. We think things like, “If there was no one else to do it, then I would” and “If I could help everyone then I would but I am only one person”. Then we smile as we think that Bill Gates sure is doing a lot with his money (and we would too if we were him and really we helped him get that money when we bought Microsoft products so in a sense he is really just giving away our money for us which we sort of wanted him to do anyway).

But would we? Do we? Where does responsibility begin?

We know a gem of a soul in Johannesburg right now, who is seeing some difficult things, some of them for the very first time. (Her blog, How to Save the Kosmos, is worth the read and linked to along the right side of my page…) The first day that she walks into a squatter camp, she will have no choice – on some level, she will feel very responsible. So must you see it? Is that the line? Will it be the look in a child’s eyes or the touch of their little hands? And could she have ever felt that responsibility from her American living room, watching a Feed the Children infomercial at 3am?

Strange isn’t it? Where does responsibility begin?

01 August 2008

my african daughter - blogging baby burkholder

I am a believer. I believe that there is purpose and wisdom in every step of this life. I believe that great tragedies and triumphs both produce greater awareness and connectedness to the Source. And I believe that when everything lines up just right, I can be the beneficiary of the good designed to bring added weight to that Source. Confused? Let me explain.

When I found out last week that we were going to have a girl, I felt very small. And very thankful.

You see, I miss my sweet little African “daughter” so much. We talk about her (and talk like her) every day. She was such a force of hope and light in my life. I remember holding her little chocolate hand in mine as we walked to buy her some “mazimba” (chips) at the shop. I remember putting her on my lap and teaching her how to do addition using her “flinglers” and the way that her eyes searched mine for approval and praise when she would do well with the task I gave her. I remember the day that we got her tested for HIV, the tremors that shook through my body as I imagined the results, and the unaware little smile that she wore after the test. We ate KFC that day. We hoped for good results and decided that life was too precious to waste worrying about what we could not change.

I think about her often, my African daughter.

I can’t even begin to describe how blessed I felt when it was revealed that God was growing a little girl in Stefani’s womb. I would again have a daughter. I would again have a little hand to hold, little eyes to reassure, and a little smile to treasure forever. My little girl will not replace what I miss so dearly in Africa, for there can be no replacement for a unique creation of heaven. My little girl will be more of a reminder, a link to a part of me that lives in Johannesburg, in the glimmering eyes of a hopeful, silly, and perfectly healthy angel.

My African daughter is HIV-negative, along with her brother, Baby Kyle. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

It is things like this that make me a believer. In hope...in redemption...in the Source.

I believe that if everything lines up just right, one day my two daughters will meet in person. And I’ll be there crying and smiling, the happiest father on earth.

(In the top photo, she is letting the bubbles from a Coke tickle her face. Only a child would notice such a pleasure. Precious.)