Conversations gone wrong

ADULT-MOTHER-DAUGHTER-TALKINGIn the course of my MBA studies, professional career, life as a priest, and all the points in between, I have witnessed and participated in conversations gone wrong. “What we have here is a failure to communicate” (Captainin Cool Hand Luke). I have studied instantiated and uninstantiated communications, message and meta message theory, and a whole host of topics whose names have been lost in the course of time. It seems as though communications is a mathematical stew of thousands of variables and a limited number of equations… translated: there is no one solution. At best you can hope to reach an optimal answer given a particular starting point – it won’t be perfect, but it will hopefully work. Continue reading

Three Years in Arabia

saint-paulOne of our Bible study folks asked about the reference in The Letter to the Galatians to St. Paul’s time in Arabia. I had always wanted to post something on the topic – and now I have an immediate request to do so. The problem is that we don’t really know a lot of biographical information about St. Paul – at least not in the sense of modern biographies.

In any biography the author, by necessity, leaves out many events. Even a lengthy work like the 16-volume, 10 million-word biography of Winston Churchill by Randolph Churchill and Martin Gilbert, which is said to be the longest biography of modern times, will still leave out much more than it records. So, when we read the New Testament, which is relatively short, we do well to remember that the human authors have been highly selective, mentioning only a very few events in the lives of the characters. St. Paul’s time in Arabia is one such event that receives only a couple of brief mentions, without which we would know nothing of it at all. We can only speculate on the “why,” “when,” and “how long” of Paul’s time in Arabia based on the information we have – which is not a lot. Continue reading

The Goodness of Creation

Over the last few weeks, we described Francis of Assisi in the role in which he is most popularly recognizable: the lover of nature and animals. Interestingly, this role is not original in the Christian tradition. In a valuable book reviewing the nature stories of Franciscan literature, Edward Armstrong shows that many of Francis’ attitudes have precedents in biblical, early Christian, and medieval ideas about nature. One group of scholars place Francis in the tradition of hermits who retired to wilderness and befriended animals. Others associate him with a theological trend, unfortunately not dominant, which affirms creation as containing intrinsic value. Most see the stories about Francis as having precedents in the already-known lives of saints, although they may have been true of Francis as well. Continue reading

This isn’t Kansas

ugaliI have been thinking about moments of my first weeks in Kanya. In many ways it was an ongoing torrent of new and different. Some of the moments were “what was that?” Some were well outside my experience and were simply part of learning to enjoy another culture. Part learning that you and Toto are not in Kansas anymore.

Many people ask about the food. In most of the country, the national meal was ugali na sukumawiki. Ugali is a maize/corn meal boiled in water until it has dough like consistency. The traditional method of eating ugali is to gather a lump with your right hand (always the right hand; the left hand has other traditional uses). You roll/squeeze the lump into a ball and use the thumb to make an indent to serve as a spoon/scoop. Then you are ready to dip/scoop from a sauce or stew (Sundays) and a plate of sukumawiki.

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