Day 2: The Bodyguard, The Kid, and The Baba

Day 2: The Bodyguard, The Kid, and The Baba

Our first full day in Skopje resulted in great food, new friends, and a life long lesson in humanity. I woke up at 2:30 am after going to sleep at midnight and went back to sleep only to awaken at 4:00am with the same feeling, except this time I was wide awake. Jet Lag Tip: Before you leave the country, set your clock to the local time overseas and adjust your sleep schedule to it. –courtesy of Randy Fortunately, when I went down to the lobby I wasn’t the only one. Rabbi Steve was wide awake and writing emails. Since we both couldn’t sleep he decided to accompany me to morning prayers at the mosque I had visited the night before. Too bad the mosque was actually closed (we missed prayer time), so we ended up walking around exploring the streets of the old...

Day 1: Pick Pocketed By Gypsy’s In Skopje

Day 1: Pick Pocketed By Gypsy’s In Skopje

Wow, that trip took forever! Houston to Washington to Vienna to Skopje, I thought it would never end, and I actually felt a little queasy between Vienna and Skopje (more tips on what to do in a flight coming soon). I’ve never flown Austrian Air, and probably would never have if it wasn’t for this trip, but the food was pretty good and the stewardesses were really nice about letting me pray in the back of the plane for however long I needed to. Go Austrian Air! Along the way, I had some wonderful conversations with a Rabbi and Priest. I know it sounds like the beginning of a comical joke, but… no. We talked about the role of the seminary, different ‘callings’ (aka pastoral community assignments), inside jokes, and the differences between some of the...

Annnd I’m Off To The Balkans!

Annnd I’m Off To The Balkans!

“Macedonia? Croatia? What? Why would you go there?” That’s usually the line of questioning I’ve heard from family and friends when I’ve told them about my trip. Countries which aren’t heard about and easily forgotten… sort of like Idaho, the Dakota’s, and Nebraska. I’m traveling these two countries with an interfaith group called TRUTH Houston. There are pastors, activists, Muslims and a rabbi. Just one rabbi, but he’s wonderful and probably does the job of five combined (props to Rabbi Steve Gross). The TRUTH group consists of myself and:  Reverend Steve Quill the founder of TRUTH Dr. Jill Caroll a professor from Rice University and a writer for Houston Belief Pastor Eric Klimpel from Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church Pastor Chris Lake of Tree...

Identifying ‘Vampires’ In Your Community

Identifying ‘Vampires’ In Your Community

Of the many questions I receive from fellow activists, community workers and others, one of the most popular is still: How do I handle my vampire problem? That’s right. Vampires. Contrary to popular opinion, vampires really do exist. They hide amongst us at work, at school, at our place of worship and even within our families only showing their teeth when it’s time to feed. And because many have faced them not knowing who they are or have chosen to deliberately ignore the issue out of the goodness of their hearts, these vampires have had the good fortune to partake in a feeding frenzy. Not anymore. Here is what we know about vampires: They enjoy what they do. They’ll bite and pursue you in the most annoying way possible. They will hiss just a...

Drowning Myself To Overcome Fear

Drowning Myself To Overcome Fear

When I was younger, for one reason or another, I couldn’t learn how to swim as fast as other children. Like many, I wasn’t able to stay afloat or successfully hold my breath underwater because I feared I would drown. This fear of drowning captivated my every move and my every thought. It kept me from floating, it kept me from breathing properly, and it paralyzed my focus on going under. There were four routes my parents could have chosen: a) Enroll me in lessons at the local swimming pool. b) Stay patient and continue to work with me for several more weeks. c) Give up and accept that I would never learn how to swim. d) Throw me in the water and hope I’ll learn to move my arms. You guessed it. My parents took option D and I distinctly remember my...

Five Essential Tips For Every Activist

Five Essential Tips For Every Activist

No matter how noble your cause there will always be a group of people who will vehemently stand against you for no particular reason. Countless stories from history and the present day conclusively paint a picture of polar opposites when it comes to doing good. Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., Buddha and others are everyday examples of noble people who faced severe opposition for advocating the ever elusive subject of peace. If people as popular as the above were confronted with groups who not only opposed, but took action to physically stop them from spreading their message, who are we to feel we won’t receive and shouldn’t receive any opposition? It is truly humbling to read about what they went through simply to spread...

Stop Creating Your OWN Problems

Stop Creating Your OWN Problems

Previously, I wrote about the importance of becoming more solution-oriented than identifying-problems-and-never-doing-anything-oriented, and I thought I should write some personal reflections on just how to achieve that state. Remembering the glass as half-full and other idioms of optimism have one theme in common: your world-view. The issue isn’t a problem unless you see it that way. By viewing your problems as a hurdle, instead of a giant brick wall, you jump on the fast track of tackling the issue. Through that simple mental shift you’re able to start finding a solution rather than looking at the size of the wall and giving up right away. Here’s another one: A problem is never a problem unless you make it so. This past Friday night, a program for young...