"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded.
And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager

With Ya, my Ga tutor in Mallam
The Rev. Mike Kinman
Executive Director
Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation
Age: 38

Check out Forsyth School ...
where Robin teaches and
the boys attend.

Since you're already blowing time surfing,
why not do some cool stuff

  • Watch the Make Poverty History videos
  • Watch Sara McLachlan's "World on Fire" video
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    People who show us What One Person Can Do
  • Liza Koerner (Teaching soccer and doing mission work in Costa Rica)
  • Erica Trapps (Raising money so Tanzanian children can go to school -- check out her photo gallery)

    What's happening in Sudan might
    surprise (and shock) you

  • Episcopal Diocese of Lui
  • South Sudanese Friends International
  • The Sudan Tribune
  • SudanReeves -- research, analysis and advocacy
  • Save Darfur
  • Darfur: a genocide we can stop

    For your daily fix on the irreverent...
  • Jesus of the Week
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    Interesting People Who Are Great To Read
  • Beth Maynard's excellent U2 sermons blog
  • Global Voices Online
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    Some interesting organizations and programs
  • Borgen Project - poverty reduction through political accountability
  • CARE
  • Center of Concern
  • DATA: Debt, AIDS and Trade in Africa (Bono's site)
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  • Engineering Ministries International
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  • FreshMinistries
  • Global Campaign Against Poverty
  • Global Ministries
  • Global Work Ethic Fund -- Promoting philanthropy and fundraising in developing and transition countries.
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  • Magdalene House
  • The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
  • Natural Capitalism
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  • North American Association for the Diaconate
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  • Project Honduras
  • Results - Creating political will to end hunger
  • St. Paul's Institute
  • Stop Global AIDS
  • TakingITGlobal -- connecting youth for action in local and global communities
  • Tanzania Educational AIDS Mission
  • TEAR (Transformation, Empowerment, Advocacy, Relief) - An Australian Christian anti-poverty movement
  • Working For Change
  • Xigi.net -- an open-source tool to aid discovery in the capital markets that fund good.

    Some Episcopal churches and dioceses doing cool things
  • Companions of Swaziland - Diocese of Iowa's Companion Relationship
  • International Development Missions -- St. Paul's Church, Sparks, NV
  • The Malaria Villages Project - St. Paul's Church, West Whiteland, PA

    Must-read books and websites about them
  • What Can One Person Do: faith to heal a broken world -- Sabina Alkire & Edmund Newell
  • The End of Poverty -- Jeffrey Sachs

    Learn more about things you really should know more about
  • UN Millenium Development Goals
  • The Millennium Campaign
  • AIDS Matters - a resource for global AIDS professionals
  • Christian Aid's in-depth report: "Millennium Lottery: Who lives and who dies in an age of third world debt?"
  • Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Poverty Mapping
  • Solutions for a water-short world
  • Transparency International: The global coalition against corruption
  • UNICEF's State of The World's Children report 2005

    General cool and/or goofy stuff
  • Alicebot chat robot
  • Bono Quotes -- but what's really wild is that it's from a page on Boycottliberalism.com!
  • Buffy Slanguage
  • Big Bunny

    Useful web tools
  • Gcast - make your own podcast
  • Podzinger - podcast search engine
  • Orb - streaming digital media

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    Listed on Blogwise
  • Thursday, April 01, 2004
    Yesterday, I went to Borders and bought Mitch Albom’s book The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I bought it because I’ve loved Mitch Albom’s sportswriting for years, because Rand wanted to know what I thought about it, because Jen Claypool said in her blog that she had read it and loved it … and because it was short. I could read it in a day or two and then get on to reading The Life of Pi, which Robin had read and wanted me to read, too.

    I dove into it yesterday afternoon and last night, and it’s as good as I figured it would be. But it’s the first part that really got me thinking. It begins with the end of the main character’s life, chronicling Eddie’s last hour. Each couple of paragraphs starts with the countdown – fifty minutes left on earth, 26 minutes to live … until the end.

    I’ve thought about this before … mostly around Julia’s death. Most people don’t know that they are about to die. Scripture says “you do not know the hour” and that’s certainly true. I’ve thought about Julia driving down that road that we still have no idea why she was on. She couldn’t have known that her last meal was whatever fast food place she probably stopped at. She couldn’t have known that when she got into the car after filling up with gas for the last time that she would never leave that driver’s seat … even when that driver’s seat became one with the rear passenger seat. Was there a clock somewhere, in the mind of God, as Julia went down that road on that rainy night that said

    Fifty minutes left on earth, 26 minutes to live, one minute to live.

    If she had slowed down just a bit, she would still be alive. If she had stayed just a little longer or left that gas station a little more quickly maybe when she hydroplaned she just would have ended up in the field, not on the grille of a Jeep. Maybe she would have been shaken up, not killed, and that weekend we all would have been scared and thanking God for her life being spared instead of standing on that hill in Natchez City Cemetery silently watching the workers lower her body into the ground.

    I am in awe of God because I have absolutely no concept of how the cosmos works when life and death can be decided by something as seemingly inconsequential as taking an extra 15 seconds to wipe your windshield at a gas station. I am in awe of a life where each one of us could have that clock over our heads – fifty minutes left on earth, 26 minutes to live – at any time and have no idea.

    I was thinking all these things this morning as I drove out to Creve Coeur to my travel agent. She had called me this morning with the excellent news that the price on Robin’s ticket to Ghana had dropped $1200 (which is a net $1000 savings after we pay the $200 penalty for canceling the ticket and then buying the new one). As I was driving back to 40 after dropping her old ticket off I started thinking about the book, about Eddie’s last hour on earth, about Julia and about me.

    “You know,” I thought to myself, “this could be my last hour on earth and I wouldn’t even know it. Here I am feeling all self-satisfied with taking this trip to Ghana to help people with AIDS, feeling like a real do-gooder, feeling so in control of my life … and yet just driving around in St. Louis, I could be killed any minute and it all would be gone.”

    I didn’t dwell on those thoughts. Didn’t start looking around more carefully to make sure a car wasn’t speeding toward me. Didn’t start driving any differently. Instead, I kind of gave them a mental “how about that,” and drove on, listening to REM and U2 and Tom Petty on my driving CD.

    I stopped at the AAA office to get the passport photos taken that I need for my visa application and then drove down Maryland to Hanley, took a left on Hanley and headed home. Just as I was getting to the intersection of Hanley and Delmar, I saw that there was no line at the Jiffy Lube on that corner. The Hyundai was past due for an oil change, so I whipped through the parking lot of the gas station on my right, made sure the traffic was clear and then turned left (heading, briefly, West on Delmar) into the left-hand turn lane to get back on Hanley going the other way so I could duck into the Jiffy Lube.

    As I turned, the light was turning from green to yellow. I probably could have made it, but decided not to chance it. I stopped. Traffic on Hanley started up and passed in front of me. I glanced over at the USA Today sports section on my passenger seat and picked it up to look at the baseball transactions while I was waiting, glancing up occasionally to make sure the light hadn’t changed.

    I heard the truck next to me start to move, looked up and saw that the green light/green arrow was on and I laid aside the sports page, took my foot off the brake and was about to step on the gas to make the turn when a green SUV barreled into the intersection, somehow in some way that escapes me given the speed it was going, screeching to a halt inches before hitting the truck that had previously been next to me but that was now in the middle of the intersection.

    I leaned on my horn.




    I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t anything but disbelieving … like when you see something in a movie that is so unrealistic that you know it just can’t be. My horn honking was not in lieu of some unprintable word, it was more like me saying “No Way!” That light had been red for a good five seconds. How could any driver be so absolutely stupid to run a light like that in the middle of a crowded section of town.

    And then it started to sink in. The cogs in my brain began to turn. And as the green SUV sheepishly backed up to its proper place and the flow of traffic restored itself and my green arrow died away, unconsciously I began to do the mental geometry.

    That SUV was occupying the space where my car would have been had I stepped on the gas at the same moment as the truck next to me.

    More specifically, that SUV was occupying the space where my driver’s seat would have been, where I would have been had I stepped on the gas at the same moment as the truck next to me.

    As the light changed and the traffic began to flow on Hanley again, my mind replayed the scene.

    It was the sports section.

    It was that stupid sports section.

    The fact that I was reading the sports page – something that, frankly, you’re really not supposed to be doing when you’re driving … even if you’re sitting at a stoplight – was what bought me those extra seconds and turned me from an active participant in something potentially horrible to a disbelieving bystander leaning on his horn while an idiot backed up a still functioning green SUV.

    The light turned green again. I paused and looked both ways, laughing because at that point I was sufficiently shaken that laughter was all I could produce, carefully made the left turn and the right turn into the Jiffy Lube parking lot. The attendant waved me into the empty garage spot, came to my window and said:

    “How’s it going?”

    “Pretty good.” And then I paused.

    “Except I was almost killed,” I said with a snort-chuckle.

    “Oh yeah, that thing,” he said, nodding with his head toward the intersection as if I’d asked where the bathroom was.

    “Leave your keys in the car.”

    I grabbed Mitch Albom’s book, which was now covered up by the sports section on my passenger seat, and headed into the waiting room. And all I could think of was:

    Fifty minutes left on earth. 26 minutes to live. One minute to live.

    Slowly at first, and then on so many levels at once, I started to process what had just happened.

    I don’t know that I would be dead now if I hadn’t been glancing at that sports page, if I had instead been waiting for the arrow and launched into the intersection at the same time as the person in the truck next to me. It’s possible that the green SUV would have braked sooner and stopped just inches from me the way she stopped inches from the truck. But I don’t think so.

    I might not be dead right now, but I most certainly would not be writing this. I’m no physics major, but the force of the speed of that SUV and the mass of that hunk of metal leaves me pretty sure that, at the very least, I would have been really, really messed up.

    Instead, I was sitting in a Jiffy Lube waiting room. Ellen DeGeneres was blathering with Torii Spelling on TV. Traffic was going on outside. No ambulances. No broken glass. No lunchtime drivers alternately horrified and annoyed at the delay. No people searching my wallet for a clue as to whom to call. No phone calls to Robin. No unthinkable news for her to find some unimaginable way to break to Schroedter. No Christie and Joey arriving at our house tonight expecting to meet my family and instead walking into a funeral. No necessity for the Bishop, Beth, David, Hopie and Laurie to find some way to tell a community that had emerged from one death that it had happened again on the eve of Holy Week and graduation.

    Just Ellen and Torii.

    Traffic moving briskly.

    You need a new air filter.

    That’ll be $17.99.

    I opened the book and continued to read, setting it aside every 2-3 minutes as I kept thinking about what had just happened. I played it over and over. Was I making too much of this. Was I really that close to calamity? Was it really that stupid sports section that made the difference? And that answers I came back with, coldly, rationally, were the same. No. Yes. Yes.

    It’s not just that I may have had a brush with death as this morning turned into this afternoon. It’s the confluence of events. The fact that 35 minutes before I was musing to myself “this could be my last hour on earth and I wouldn’t even know it.”

    I stared out the window of the Jiffy Lube wondering what to make of all this. For little 5-second bursts every 5 minutes, I got shaky inside, thinking about what almost happened.

    What do I do with this? I wondered.

    What do I do with this? I prayed.

    Is there some sort of message in this for me?

    Maybe I’m too much of a rationalist, but I can’t believe that God made me pick up that sports section because “it wasn’t my time yet.” I didn’t hear a voice that said “Check the transactions, my son” or have any weird feeling. It was a normal, seemingly insignificant choice I made just like a thousand or so others I’d made that day. Just like the choice to alter my course home and go to the Jiffy Lube in the first place.

    I’ve never believed God is a micromanager. Leine McNeely and I sat in her car a week ago last Monday having that conversation for the umpteenth time. I don’t think God caused Julia’s death. I believe God was present there and has been present in every moment since, bringing good out of it in every way that we let God through being open to the Spirit in our lives. That good can come out of something as horrible as Julia’s death is one of the greatest testaments to God’s existence and goodness I can fathom.

    No, God didn’t make me stay out of that intersection. But if I hadn’t been reading that sports section. If I was dead now or even really, really messed up … God would be present in that. God would be present with Robin and Schroedter and Hayden and ECM and my parents and with me.

    And even though it would have been horrible. Life would have gone on. And to the extent all of us were open to the Spirit being present through it and being a light in whatever darkness that event would bring, good would happen. God would happen.

    What do I do with this? I wondered.

    What do I do with this? I prayed.

    And one answer came to me out of my gut, in that way that answers come from your gut and not from your head when they just feel right.

    Let it go.

    One of the greatest paradoxes in a cosmos that is full of them is that life is at once incredibly precious and incredibly insignificant. Precious because … well, it just is. Everything that has meaning to us is tied up in it. Insignificant because … well, whether we live or die, we are God’s. We have the gift of being able to sing Alleluia while we are alive and yet even after we die we and those who love us still make our song “Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.” Alive or dead, the song remains the same.

    We need to treasure life and yet not grasp it tightly. It can end at any minute. Even as I sit here in my living room writing this believing I have just dodged the bullet with my name on it, I could still die today. Or Robin or Hayden or Schroedter. Or any number of people I care about deeply. The clocks are always ticking. The countdown is always going on for someone.

    Fifty minutes left on earth, 26 minutes to live, one minute to live.

    Let it go.

    I went back to reading the book, idly wondering as I followed Eddie’s journey to the third person he met in heaven if I would have found Julia waiting for me with a message.

    Let it go.

    The car was done. I got back into that driver’s seat and, perhaps a little more carefully than before, shifted into drive and turned right onto Delmar. The light went from green to yellow and, absolutely certain I didn’t want to risk it this time, I stopped at the edge of the intersection.

    I glanced over to my right and there was the sports section. Smiling, I picked it up and continued to read the transaction column.

    The truck next to me made some noise and I looked up and saw the light had changed.

    I tossed the sports section aside, lifted my foot from the brake and as I put my foot to the gas I noticed the truck next to me was already in the middle of the intersection.
    Mike at 4/01/2004 01:34:00 PM

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    Episcopalians for
    Global Reconciliation

    EGR is an organization resourcing a grassroots movement of spiritual transformation in the Episcopal Church to end extreme poverty on this planet.

    The structure for this movement is the Millennium Development Goals -- 8 goals committed to by all member nations of the UN and a unique partnership of governments and civil society to:

    *End extreme poverty
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    primary education

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    EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.

    Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.

    "Christ's example is being demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy, which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here. If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't, it will be irrelevant."
    - Bono


    What I'm Reading
    Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
    by Doris Kearns Goodwin