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The Bookshelf: All Our Waves are Water, a Review

(I received a free copy of this book)

I first read Jaimal Yogis’s work in his book The Fear Project: What Our Most Primal Emotion Taught Me About Survival, Success, Surfing . . . and Love. Fear is a common theme in my own writing – feeling it, describing it, facing it, overcoming it, living with it…so I was curious about his perspective on fear, through the lens of surfing. It was a beautiful and challenging exploration of living with fear, but not bending to it. Here is just one quote, of many, that I wrote down:

“If we can understand fear rather than demonize it, reframe fear as a natural part of our biology rather than avoiding and repressing it, stretch our comfort zones just a little every day and walk peacefully and courageously into those scary memories of embarrassment and trauma, we will gradually learn to transform fear into focus and compassionate action, and our sons’ and daughters’ world can be better than the one we live in. Will we collectively freeze, fight, and stagnate? Or will we learn and act?”

When Jaimal contacted me to review his newest book, All Our Waves Are Water, I was eager for the book to get all the way to Djibouti. I’m not a surfer, but a runner, so a fellow athlete. I’m not Buddhist but I seek to uncover the holy and the Divine in daily life and the exploration of all faiths intrigues me. I am a lover of water. I grew up in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes. I’ve lived 15 years within a mile or two of the ocean. So – sport, faith, water, book. So many of the things I love, yes, this would be a great book for me to read and review.

I read it in two days, even during the holiday season.

Jaimal had a significant challenge on his hands in writing this book. Faith, especially the mystical aspects of it, is one of the hardest things to describe in words without sounding, well, not quite sane. And to get non-surfers to understand and appreciate the thrill, terror, and irresistible pull of a wave without sounding condescending, redundant, or confusing, must have felt daunting. I’ll admit I didn’t quite grasp all the surfing scenes, or quite understand some of his more deeply experienced religious moments. But that works in this book. Faith is embracing mystery. The surfer’s high, or low, like the runner’s high or low, is intangible. Writers throw words at meditation or the ocean or God and they are our attempts to name the unnamable. I didn’t mind that I couldn’t exactly picture what he described and instead, I imposed my own mystical faith experiences and sport experience over his, and felt a sort of kinship.

The book is poetic, especially when he writes about the water and describes waves. It is a story about friendship and love and faith and surfing around the world. But ultimately, it is a story about Jaimal’s search, which is the search of so many of us. Through nations, girlfriends, friends, studying, working, yoga, meditation, and surfing, Jaimal takes the reader along on his search for self and for grace.

He finds both, even while acknowledging that every day presents a fresh opportunity to search yet deeper. But grace and his sense of identity are not actually in the waves, or the water, not in his work, not in his romantic relationships, not in the experiences he had of traveling all over the world, not in the yoga meditation or retreats. At least not in any of these things exclusively or eternally. He finds himself and uncovers grace in daily life.

The holy in the ordinary, grace in the mundane, self where you are.

After a rather shocking experience, he writes, “…had given me a gift. He’d made me recall briefly that nothing beats spring pasta on a Tuesday with your girlfriend, the sensation of breath in your lungs, a walk on the dunes after dinner, the full moon sinking behind the city.”

I finished the book and wanted to do two things: run to the ocean and dip my fingers in, to taste the salty water that so perfectly accompanies the book, and to be more faithful in practicing meditation. A book that calls the reader to experience nature with joy and to sit quietly, exploring the soul, is a good book. Even if you miss some of the the surfing nuances or don’t follow the same specific faith ideas, there are depths of beauty and honesty to enjoy in All Our Waves Are Water.

And more of Jaimal Yogis’s work here

Parenting and Risk, Outside the Camp

Quick link: I’m Not Called to Keep My Kids from Danger

This is an article published by Christianity Today Women. (I hope fathers as well as mothers read it, or are thinking about these topics as they parent!) The piece was commissioned in response to a recent post John Piper wrote about bringing kids abroad, to live in risky or dangerous places.

His piece focused on spiritual risks. I’ve written a lot about fear and danger, mostly in terms of physical aspects. I believe, as I wrote in the Proper Weight of Fear, that safety is an illusion, it can even be crafted into an idol. No matter where we live, our kids are never guaranteed any level of safety. What are we going to do with that sobering reality? My piece responds to Piper’s, with a personal take.

Fifteen years ago, my husband and I did the riskiest thing we could imagine and took a job in the Horn of Africa. People often responded by asking, “Are you bringing the kids?” We had two-year-old twins at the time.

…Yes, we were bringing the kids.

It still amazes me that people ask this question. But I heard from a friend who arrived in Africa about a year ago, she too, had been asked this. And several others have commented that people ask the same question.

Yes! We’re bringing our kids. And we don’t believe we are destroying them.

As I drafted this essay, I asked my kids if they thought they lived a dangerous or uncomfortable life. One responded, “I think its pretty comfortable. But from the outside, someone might not think that.”

One thing about risk and danger and pushing beyond our comfort zones, is that it is, partly, a matter of perspective. I look back at the US lately, and I feel a tingle of fear! I’m starting to understand my African friends who ask, “Aren’t you afraid to visit the United States?” and who assume I would have no fear about living where we do. Clearly, some places are more dangerous, physically, than others. I have never been to Mogadishu. Also, we do face unique risks regarding disease and healthcare. I am not ignoring those scary realities. But, the conversation about fear and risk is more than physical danger and more than simply thinking everywhere outside the US is less safe.

Anyway, head over to CT, and read the piece, about going outside the camp.

I’m Not Called to Keep My Kids from Danger

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Is Something Bad Going to Happen Tomorrow?

Is something bad going to happen tomorrow?

I mean, is something really bad going to happen tomorrow?

Yes.

I guarantee it.

Maybe not to you. Maybe not where you live. But yes, something really bad is going to happen tomorrow.

Is Something Bad Going to Happen?

Sometimes I catch an undercurrent of fear, a sense that the world might be careening toward the ‘End Times’, an anxiety about the future, and a worry that something might go terribly wrong. If not today, then tomorrow, or next month. (I’m not the only one, Marilynne Robinson wrote about it here)

Guess what?

Something horribly wrong already happened today.

If toddlers washed up, dead, on the beach isn’t horrible enough, how about swordsmen at Swedish schools, shootings on Tennessee campuses, bombs in Turkey, Syrians slaughtered, raped, imprisoned, enslaved? How about Yemenis enduring endless violence and mostly ignored by the global community? How about girls abducted from school and forced into ‘marriages’ that are really sexual bondage? How about children going to bed hungry and kids with Downs Syndrome chained to bedposts? How about friends with cancer and spouses who cheat and lost jobs? How about corruption and injustice and greed and selfishness? How about a lack of clean drinking water and little respect for our planet?

The world is broken. There is horror and pain and suffering and grief and the only people with the audacity to wonder, ‘will something horrible happen tomorrow, or next week, or next month?’ are those who refuse to look outside their own lives. The ones who are unable to see that something horrible is already happening. The ones who are protected from global terror and famine and war and disease or from personal devastation and loss. Or who think they are because they have built up the false security of defenses and distance.

Something horrible is happening. Right now. In our world. This world. The one we live in and share and are responsible for.

The question is not: Is something bad going to happen?

The questions need to be:

When something bad happens somewhere else, what am I (you) going to do about it?

And when something bad happens to me (you), how am I (you) going to respond?

Are we going to be relieved that it isn’t our toddler washed up, dead, and then change the channel?

Are we going to build bigger bank accounts and buy more iPhones and plan ever more luxurious vacations?

Are we going to thank God for his miraculous provision of a parking spot while refusing to even ask the question of why he hasn’t miraculously provided breast milk from the sawed-off breasts of mothers in Sudan so they don’t have to watch their infants starve to death in their laps?

Or are we going to sell all we have and follow Jesus? Jesus who went to the uncomfortable place of shame and death on the cross? Jesus who went outside the cultural norms and touched sick people, dignified the sexually broken and abused, and who brought food to the masses, who welcomed the alien, stranger, and outcast?

How much worse does this world need to be for people to take notice?

It is time to look up from our manicured lawns and see that something awful is already happening in the world.

It is time to ask, what are we going to do about it?

For people who live far away from disaster (for now), instead of being afraid of the what-if scenarios of some doomsday forecast, start loving people. Pray for enemies, bless those who persecute. Make choices with your time, money, votes, attitudes, and possessions that are loving toward people.

For those who live closer to disaster (for now), instead of being afraid of what is on the doorstep, love people. Pray for enemies, bless those who persecute. Make choices with time, money, votes, attitudes, and possessions that are loving toward people.

The world is broken and is probably only going to get more broken. God is in the business of redemption, not just of our souls but of our bodies and our planet. Fixing the brokenness is not our job, I will leave that up to the One who is more than able. But loving people and not being afraid or paranoid or isolated is the role I believe God is calling his people to, as part of the redeeming work.

Something bad has already happened. What are you going to do, now?

Here are some articles filled with ideas for what you can do.

5 Ways to Stand Up and Be the Church

Syrian Crisis: Christians Cannot Stand and Do Nothing

By |November 2nd, 2015|Categories: Faith|Tags: , |3 Comments

Hamoudi Mosque

Quick link: A Mosque, a Book, and a Banister

Today I’m at EthnoTraveler writing about learning the social and religious codes surrounding mosques, the Quran, and faith in Djibouti.

a mosque, a book, and a baniste1

Along with being an iconic building, the Hamoudi Mosque is considered one of Djibouti City’s top tourist sites. My suspicion is that this is because there aren’t many tourist sites, at least not in the city. Tourists mainly come to Djibouti for the snorkeling, scuba diving, adventure hiking, and rustic experiences available far from the city center. The mosque is as closed to me as a tourist as is buying a Quran. To get a feel for the building and the affection people feel toward it, I circle the mosque several times, looking, wondering, curious about what goes on inside.

A group of teenage boys pours out of the door after the evening prayer time. They slip into their black, faux leather sandals and scurry down the steps. One of them balances on the green banister and slides down, launching himself into the cacophonous street below…

Click here to read the rest A Mosque, a Book, and a Banister

My Hope for 2015

Quick link: My Hope For You in 2015

Today I’m writing at A Life Overseas about what I hope to see happen in your life and in my life. It isn’t all comfort and happy-happy-joy-joy. It is deep and painful and foundation-shifting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wouldn’t it be nice if I could hope for you only and fully that all your days be merry and your nights be bright and your path be smooth and the sun shine gently on your face? I do hope the road rises to meet you and that you find joy in every relationship and peace on all sides but I’m sorry, I also have other, deeper hopes. I want so much more than smiles and ease and comfort for you, and for me.

And so my highest hope for you is that when your days are far from merry you will sense a deep and abiding presence, holding your head above water and keeping your legs from crumbling beneath you. My hope is that when the plans you so carefully lay are shattered, you will release them gently and walk into the unknown with courage.

Click here to read the rest of My Hope For You in 2015.

*image via Flickr

By |January 5th, 2015|Categories: Faith|Tags: , , |0 Comments
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