The Least of Us

"If I’ve learned nothing else in the past fifteen years of inviting the homeless to live with my family, it’s that we’re not here to fix the world. It’s tempting to believe otherwise,.... Evangelicals are the great hope of the world, we’re told. We have the Good News. We’re here to change your life. No, wait, sorry: we get ourselves confused with Jesus all the time."

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Bodhisattva Training

"To those taught that with enough perseverance and labor, they can shape the world to their will, this insistence that you must accept that-which-is infuriates. You cannot read acceptance as anything other than capitulation, a giving up which is a giving in, a passive resignation. For what is healing that cannot cure illness? What is love that cannot uproot injustice? The options seem stark: be the savior or be the victim. But this is a false dichotomy. If you cannot control outcomes, it isn’t because someone else is doing so in your place, but because no one can. That-which-is is really that-which-is-unfolding-always-already.

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Bloom

"My family, by discouraging the religious path, tried to save me from the all-consuming nature of bhakti devotion and knowing my disposition somewhat better now, I think I might have drowned in spiritual study. They would have lost me, in some way. Perhaps. Creating a personal spiritual discipline of practicing meditation, writing with devotion, and attending yoga teachings allowed me to finally connect with my religious tradition in a way that didn’t provoke my mental restlessness and resistance."

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The Greater Jihad

"The three dimensions of Islam include belief, ritual practice, and the effort to improve one’s character (Jihad)—which is perhaps the most misunderstood dimension. Jihad simply translates into ‘struggle’. The ‘greater’ Jihad is this spiritual internal struggle within oneself to improve one’s character. The ‘lesser’ Jihad can be understood as an external struggle in self-defense when attacked."

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To Pray Like a Child

"But I did not grow up in these rules. So they are esoteric, they are contraband, they are radical, they liberate me from the drudgery of infinite small choices, the burden of meaning-making, the alienating loneliness of being twenty-two, a writer who has stopped writing, knowing the way I have been living is not enough, hungry for a life that touches other lives: not just those who happen to be alive at the same time as me, but those beyond the wall of time—humans, in their bodies, their costumes, made more human to me by the distance between our centuries and the similarities of some mysterious combination of genes and destiny. "

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Some Thoughts on Forrest City

The first time I went to Forrest City, Arkansas, I was traveling to Memphis with my friend Penelope to see Elf Power. We stopped at a Taco Bell, and I distinctly remember feeling out of place, like we were in a foreign country, not just a mere hour or so away from our hometown of Little Rock. I was wearing a Sufjan Stevens shirt that simply said “Greetings from Michigan!” and the woman at the counter thought we were tourists.

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The Shift

When Eva introduces herself to you she will reach out and take your hand, and holding it there, tell you her name how old she is how many years she has been married who her daughter is and how many degrees Celsius it is outside. You will listen to her closely even if she slips into German or Russian. You will ignore her rotting gums and promise to pick up a jelly donut for her if she makes it to her father’s house and back with no problems.

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Dirty Work

The quaver in your dad’s voice unkinks something in you. Something deep and coiled. It comes from the very bottom, from where your ankles feel like they’re made of water. You are not a crier; your father is less of one. Even through the crystal-clear sound of the latest phone technology—like your ears are pressed up against each other’s heads—he sounds distant, like he is talking to you from one corner of the room with the phone in the opposite corner. He says the Korean word for grandfather, instead of Dad or Father or Pop. He says, Grandfather is dead. He says, come home, come home now.

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Wars of Their Own

As they led her into the bedroom, Latifa feared the worst. Although they never touched her, the men, dressed in ankle length blouses and baggy trousers worn by the Taliban, repeatedly threatened to rape and kill her. Throughout the ordeal, she was warned the Afghan government would soon fall to the Taliban. And when it did what would she do then? To Latifa and her family it was obvious this was not a robbery, it was a warning meant to intimidate her. But it didn’t. The following day she went to work. 

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