Posts Tagged With: California

God Girl’s Got News: My Happy Return to Fourth Estate

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Imgage via Wiki Commons: http://bit.ly/VvGUxk

It is with great delight that I share some (personal) breaking news: At the end of the month, I will be joining the staff of the Orange County Register as its Faith & Values Columnist.

I’ll be on sabbatical until then, but I am thrilled to be joining the Register in this new era, with a publisher, Aaron Kushner, who believes in the power and necessity of excellent newspaper journalism. In the last few months, the Register has hired more than 70 new reporters, columnists, editors,  and designers.

When I visited the Register offices in Santa Ana late last year, I found something I hadn’t seen in more than a decade and feared I might never see again: a thriving newsroom. Every seat filled. Humming with the sounds of reporters doing their thing. Bubbling with energy and excitement. Unnamed_CCI_EPS

I was beyond thrilled to meet astute and creative editors who understand the importance of covering issues of faith, religion, values, morals, ethics, and belief that are a vital part of the fabric, history, and future of Orange County.

During the 3.5 years since my family relocated from Chicago to Orange County, I have fallen head-over-heels in love with this magical place, its lively and diverse community, and the extraordinary people I’m blessed to call my neighbors.

I can’t wait to dig in, discover, and tell their stories.

It’s an unexpected new chapter in my life for which I am deeply grateful.

Thanks to all of you for walking with me these many years and for joining me on this new adventure.

Categories: BREAKING NEWS! | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Ethiopia: God Is Even Bigger Than We Think

In 2007, I boarded a plane bound for Africa for the first time.

That trip took me to Kenya, Tanzania, the island of Zanzibar, and Malawi.

And that trip changed me — heart, mind soul — forever transforming my family and my world.

Today, five years almost to the day since I flew to Nairobi to begin my first African adventure, I’m sitting in the international terminal of Dulles airport in Washington, D.C., waiting to board a 787 Dreamliner bound for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

An adventure lies ahead. And yet, so much more than that.

I’ve been to Africa twice now (this is my third visit to continent), and each time the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had on the journey — all of it dripping with a grace so palpable I could almost smell it like so much sandalwood smoke wafting from an incenser — have shaped me and recalibrated my spirit.

I don’t know specifically what Ethiopia has in store for me, but I am sure of one thing: The Spirit will be there.

It will move my soul. I will be changed. My capacity to love will deepen. My concept of beauty, joy, faith, courage, and suffering will grow.

My traveling companions are a dozen women  — all are members of ONE Moms — a group of mothers from around the globe who are part of the ONE Campaign, a non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.***

Backed by more than 3 million members, ONE works with government leaders to support proven, cost-effective solutions to save lives and help build sustainable futures. I’ve been orbiting ONE for a decade, way back when it was called DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) and I was still a newspaper reporter. I tagged along on a trip across the American Midwest (called the “Heart of America Tour“) with ONE co-founder Bono, Bobby Shriver, Chris Tucker, Ashley Judd and a merry band of activists determined to get the American church (read: Evangelicals like me) to do something about the AIDS emergency in sub-Saharan Africa.

For years, I’ve covered ONE as a journalist — from the outside looking in, as a bystander and (mostly) neutral observer. I could tell ONE’s stories, but I couldn’t get involved in its work directly.

And then earlier this year, having left the news business in 2011 when I joined the staff of Sojourners as its Web Editor and Director of New Media, ONE extended an invitation to me to join the advisory board of ONE Moms. I like to think of Sojo and ONE as kissing cousins, both dedicated to doing Matthew 25 work — feeding the hungry, comforting the afflicted, sheltering the homeless, healing the sick, reaching out to the margins with love and respect — and, because I was no longer a traditional journalist, very happily I was able to say YES! (A great, big, full-throated, fledgy YESSSSSSS!)

Soon came another invitation from ONE to join other ONE mamas on a listening-and-learning visit to Ethiopia. And more fledgy YESSSES.

Beginning Sunday, we’ll be visiting various NGOs and projects in and around Addis Ababa that work  (predominantly) with women and girls, and we’ll many of our counterparts — Ethiopian mamas, our sisters from the other side of the world.

We will sit with the weavers at fashionABLE, visit patients and doctors at the world-renowned Hamlin Fistula Hospital, organizations that work with orphans and widows, AIDS prevention programs, nutrition centers for newborns and children, and women farmers near Bahir Dar, in northwestern Ethiopia’s Ahmara district not far from the Sudanese border.

My prayer is to enter this adventure with a wide-open heart and mind. To be present. To listen well. To learn and to tell the stories of the people I meet as well as I can.

Five years ago, on that first trip to Africa, I was working on a memoir called Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace. The idea was to explain (for lack of a better word) what grace feels/sounds/smells/tastes like for people who don’t know what it is or feel like they’ve never experienced it. I did so by telling stories from my own life — including tales from intentional experiences I’d had to see how grace would “turn up,” certain that it would and spectacularly so. With jazz hands.

And it did.

On Oct. 12 this year, I will be in Ethiopia, about 4,000 kilometers north of Blantyre, Malawi where I was on Oct. 12, 2007.

That’s the day I met a little boy by the side of the road who was dying of a heart defect. He had no parents. He was desperately poor. Some would have said he had no hope.

The tiny boy was wearing a dingy t-shirt with the drawing of a dove and the word, chisomo, written on it, which means “grace” in his native language, Chichewa.

But, as a friend told me yesterday when I was talking about how I believed Ethiopia would be a transformational experience, God is even bigger than we think.

As many of you already know,that boy is now my son, Vasco.

(L) Vasco in Malawi, 2007. (R)Vasco in California, 2012.

The first time I went to Africa, I went looking for grace, and I found Vasco.

The second time I went to Africa, in 2010, I brought Vasco with me for an adoption hearing, not knowing if I’d be able to get him out again.

But God is even bigger than we think.

And I returned home to California with a family — legally and forever.

My flight’s about to board for Ethiopia.

I’m not looking for anything or anyone. I’m going with an open hand and heart.

And I know — more than I ever could express in words — that God is even bigger than we think.

Tune in here and at Sojo.net for (hopefully) daily reports from Ethiopia and watch for my tweets (and those of my traveling companions) on Twitter with the tag #ONEMOMS.

***I’m in Ethiopia as an expense-paid guest of The ONE Campaign. We are here to report back to you how lives have been improved or saved by American-supported programs. ONE is a non-partisan organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease by pressing political leaders to support smart programs that save lives. ONE doesn’t ask for your money, just your voice.

Categories: From Sojo.net, GODSTUFF, VASCO | Tags: , , , , , , , | 61 Comments

Ethiopia: God Is Even Bigger Than We Think

In 2007, I boarded a plane bound for Africa for the first time.

That trip took me to Kenya, Tanzania, the island of Zanzibar, and Malawi.

And that trip changed me — heart, mind soul — and forever transformed my family and my world.

Today, five years almost to the day since I flew to Nairobi to begin my first African adventure, I’m sitting in the international terminal of Dulles airport in Washington, D.C., waiting to board a 787 Dreamliner bound for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

A journey lies ahead. An adventure. And yet, so much more than that.

I’ve been to Africa twice now (this is my third visit to continent), and each time the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had on the journey — all of it dripping with a grace so palpable I could almost smell it like so much sandalwood smoke wafting from an incenser — have shaped me and recalibrated my spirit indelibly.

I don’t know specifically what Ethiopia has in store for me, but I am sure of one thing: The Spirit will be there.

It will move my soul. I will be changed. My capacity to love will deepen. My concept of beauty, joy, faith, courage, and suffering will grow.

My traveling companions are a dozen women  — all are members of ONE Moms — a group of mothers from around the globe who are part of the ONE Campaign, a non-partisan advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa.***

Backed by more than 3 million members, ONE works with government leaders to support proven, cost-effective solutions to save lives and help build sustainable futures. I’ve been orbiting ONE for a decade, way back when it was called DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa) and I was still a newspaper reporter. I tagged along on a trip across the American Midwest (called the “Heart of America Tour”) with ONE co-founder Bono, Bobby Shriver, Chris Tucker, Ashley Judd and a merry band of activists determined to get the American church (read: Evangelicals like me) to do something about the AIDS emergency in sub-Saharan Africa.

For years, I’ve covered ONE as a journalist — from the outside looking in, as a bystander and (mostly) neutral observer. I could tell ONE’s stories, but I couldn’t get involved in its work directly.

And then earlier this year, having left the news business in 2011 when I joined the staff of Sojourners as its Web Editor and Director of New Media, ONE extended an invitation to me to join the advisory board of ONE Moms. I like to think of Sojo and ONE as kissing cousins, both dedicated to doing Matthew 25 work — feeding the hungry, comforting the afflicted, sheltering the homeless, healing the sick, reaching out to the margins with love and respect — and, because I was no longer a traditional journalist, very happily I was able to say YES! (A great, big, full-throated, fledgy YESSSSSSS!)

Soon came another invitation from ONE to join other ONE mamas on a listening-and-learning visit to Ethiopia. And more fledgy YESSSES.

Beginning Sunday, we’ll be visiting various NGOs and projects in and around Addis Ababa that work  (predominantly) with women and girls, and we’ll many of our counterparts — Ethiopian mamas, our sisters from the other side of the world.

We will sit with the weavers at fashionABLE, visit patients and doctors at the world renowned Hamlin Fistula Hospital, organizations that work with orphans and widows, AIDS prevention programs, nutrition centers for newborns and children, and women farmers near Bahir Dar, in northwestern Ethiopia’s Ahmara district not far from the Sudanese border.

My prayer is to enter this adventure with a wide-open heart and mind. To be present. To listen well. To learn and to tell the stories of the people I meet as well as I can.

Five years ago, on that first trip to Africa, I was working on a memoir called Sin Boldly: A Field Guide for Grace. The idea was to explain (for lack of a better word) what grace feels/sounds/smells/tastes like for people who don’t know what it is or feel like they’ve never experienced it. I did so by telling stories from my own life — including tales from intentional experiences I’d had to see how grace would “turn up,” certain that it would and spectacularly so. With jazz hands.

And it did.

On Oct. 12 this year, I will be in Ethiopia, about 4,000 kilometers north of Blantyre, Malawi where I was on Oct. 12, 2007.

That’s the day I met a little boy by the side of the road who was dying of a heart defect. He had no parents. He was desperately poor. Some would have said he had no hope.

The tiny boy was wearing a dingy t-shirt with the drawing of a dove and the word, chisomo, written on it, which means “grace” in his native language, Chichewa.

But, as a friend told me yesterday when I was talking about how I believed Ethiopia would be a transformational experience, God is even bigger than we think.

As many of you already know, that boy is now my son, Vasco.

The first time I went to Africa, I went looking for grace, and I found Vasco.

The second time I went to Africa, in 2010, I brought Vasco with me for an adoption hearing, not knowing if I’d be able to get him out again.

But God is even bigger than we think.

And I returned home to California with a family — legally and forever.

My flight’s about to board for Ethiopia.

I’m not looking for anything or anyone. I’m going with an open hand and heart.

And I know — more than I ever could express in words — that God is even bigger than we think.

Tune in here and at Sojo.net for (hopefully) daily reports from Ethiopia and watch for my tweets (and those of my traveling companions) on Twitter with the tag #ONEMOMS.

***I’m in Ethiopia as an expense-paid guest of The ONE Campaign. We are here to report back to you how lives have been improved or saved by American-supported programs. ONE is a non-partisan organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease by pressing political leaders to support smart programs that save lives. ONE doesn’t ask for your money, just your voice.

Categories: GODSTUFF, VASCO | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mumford & Sons: ‘I Will Wait’

 

Rarely — frankly never before, if my memory is correct — have I literally burst into tears upon hearing a song for the first time. But that is exactly what happened when I listened to Mumford & Sons‘ new single, “I Will Wait,” this morning.

This summer has been a difficult season for my family of origin. My parents are getting older and facing physical challenges that are testing all of our resolve and the core of our spirits. I’ve been away from my own family in California for a month — the longest I’ve ever been apart from my son. And it has been … the word “hard” doesn’t quite capture the feeling. Soul wrenching is closer.

In the midst of a roiling sea of emotions, I find myself clinging to faith like a life raft, while simultaneously wondering desperately what God’s up to in all of this tsouris, as my rabbi friend might say.

Perhaps that’s why “I Will Wait” put a lump in my throat and filled my still-sleepy eyes with hot tears. The author Frederick Buechner says that we should pay careful attention to the things that bring about such reactions, because they are signs that the holy is drawing nigh.

As listeners, we really can’t be sure what a songwriter’s intention was when he or she composed a song. While I don’t know whether it is what Mumford & Sons intended, I hear “I Will Wait” as a prayer — waiting for clarity and meaning, for grace and peace that surpasses all understanding. Waiting on God.

If the band’s debut album and the tidbits of their biography that fans have learned — for instance, lead vocalist Marcus Mumford‘s parents head the Vineyard Churches in the United Kingdom — are any indication of what their spiritual predliections might be, my interpretation of “I Will Wait” might not be too far off the mark.

Whatever the true story or intentions of the band may be, “I Will Wait” was my prayer this morning when I heard the song for the first time on the radio as I drove to a cafe in the Connecticut village where I was raised to get a strong cup of coffee and a bowl of steel cut oatmeal to start my day. All three fortified my weary, twitterpated body and soul.

Here is “I Will Wait,” the new single from Mumford & Sons’ forthcoming album, Babel, which is due to drop on Sept. 25 (my birthday, because God, apparently, has a sense of occasion).

And I came home
Like a stone
And I fell heavy into your arms
These days of dust
Which we’ve known
Will blow away with this new sun

And I’ll kneel down
Wait for now
And I’ll kneel down
Know my ground

And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you

So break my step
And relent
You forgave and I won’t forget
Know what we’ve seen
And him with less
Now in some way
Shake the excess

But I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you

So I’ll be bold
As well as strong
And use my head alongside my heart
So take my flesh
And fix my eyes
That tethered mind free from the lies

But I’ll kneel down
Wait for now
I’ll kneel down
Know my ground

Raise my hands
Paint my spirit gold
And bow my head
Keep my heart slow

Cause I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you
And I will wait, I will wait for you

Can I get an Amen?

Cathleen Falsani is Web Editor and Director of New Media for Sojourners. Follow Cathleen on Twitter @GodGrrl.

 

Categories: From Sojo.net, GODSTUFF | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Join GG for Girls Night Out in Irvine, California TONITE!

Hey Y’all:

I’ve been MIA for weeks – slammed with family obligations, work and a much-needed vacation. So distracted, in fact, that I forgot to tell you that I’ll be speaking tonite at Mariners Church in Irvine, Calif., for its Girls Night Out. The topic of my talk is “Gracespotting.” I’ll be sharing the best story I know and a few others from my time on the “God Beat.”

Here are the deets:
7 to 8:30 p.m.

Friday, April 27, 2012
Mariners Church, the Upper Room
5001 Newport Coast Dr.
Irvine California 92603-0164
949.769.8100

For more information (it’s only $5, cuz I’m a cheap date, apparently) please click HERE.

Categories: Upcoming Events | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Just Say It: Be God’s Love, Grace Today

A few minutes ago, I received an email from one of the pastors at the church where I worship here in California. It’s his weekly note of encouragement for the congregation and it’s always something I take a few minutes to read, no matter how busy my day might be.

Today, I’m even more grateful than usual that I took a few moments to stop and read. Our pastor is the dearest man — he wears his heart on his sleeve, proudly and always. Right now, he’s undergoing treatment for a scary illness, one that we are certain he will overcome. Yet, it’s been a fraught time for our community who loves him dearly, and for his remarkable wife, Nikki.

I wanted to share his words of encouragement with you on this Valentine’s Day.

He writes:

Driving through the canyon the other day, Nikki quietly said, “Jay, I love you.” It had so come from her heart, I have thought about those words over and over. How much they meant to me. How encouraging they were. How comforted I felt. You know, it doesn’t take much to make someone feel great. Just a, “You’re the best,” or, “Did I ever tell you what a remarkable person I think you are?”

I was at the Sawdust [an annual arts festival here in the Southern California town where we both live] the other day and one of the staff members walked by and simply touched my shoulder. It meant the world to me because what she was saying  was “I’m thinking of you during your treatment.” Isn’t it something? What a word, a touch, a glance, a smile can do for us. You and I have the power to change someone’s day. And so I am going to challenge you, on this Valentine’s Day, to not only tell family members you love them, but also others whom you care for. 

In a world where people are beat up and put down, God gives us the ability to completely turn negativity, criticism and rude opinions around. “Encourage one another and build each other up,” says 1 Thessalonians 5;11. That is one of the most significant verses in all the Bible because when we do this it sets off a chain reaction of blessing.” You become the voice of God’s mercy and grace in the lives of others.

So here’s my message to you this week.“You are the beloved of God, every single one of you reading this letter, so very precious in God’s sight, so immensely loved by Him. God sings over you, even dances over you at times. And at night God often whispers to us that we are His own, that He has called us by Name. Be encouraged everyone, you were loved by God yesterday, you are loved by Him today, and you will be loved by Him forever and ever.

Take the time to tell someone you care, whether it’s in words or in deeds today. You can never say, “I love you,” too often or too late.

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody.

You are loved.

Categories: LURKING IN THE NARTHEX | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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