Exploring the Extremes (with Free Giveaway!)

I like exploring at extremes, whether it’s trying to push my own limits or understanding someone else’s. A few recent thoughts:

In the spring I traveled to Bangkok to write about people living and working in slums around the world. I wrote a cover story for Christianity Today about their challenging and inspiring stories – “Chaos and Grace in the Slums of the Earth.” I appreciate how they push to work out what faith and love means in their on the crowded margins of society.

This year I turned 40. With the business of family and work that most of us face, I decided on the pedestrian, needed goal of getting in better shape. So to make it more interesting/extreme, on November 2 I’ll be doing a Tough Mudder race with some friends. It’s 12 miles of crazy obstacles. Here you can learn more or sponsor my folly toward helping education in Haiti. I’m having fun. I’m a little sore. Sunday I ran 8 miles, the longest run of my life. I’ll be writing more about this stretching of mind and body.

People kindly, regularly ask if I’m working on my next book. Yes, but it’s taking shape slowly. Look forward to when I have an announcement to make! Meanwhile I post occasional articles on my blog.

There are many extremes worth exploring. Different for each of us. Daily, loving our neighbors. Physically, moving to slums or managing chronic illness. Spiritually, asking the questions of doubt and taking the risks of faith. Emotionally, risking empathy for others or risking true joy. Parentally, doing the incredibly beautiful and mundane work of being a mom or dad or grandparent. And so on.

Beauty is part of what sustains us through the daily efforts of exploring (or just making it through). So as I’ve been thinking about extremes, I wanted to share with you some beautiful music.

Vito and Monique are friends who have a band called The Welcome Wagon, which has received much well-deserved praise. We’ve been friends since Vito and I were seminary students together more than 15 years ago. (Vito is also a pastor.) I love their music and hope you might too. Below you’ll see details on winning one their two albums. And if you don’t win one, they’re worth buying. Here is one of their many songs I like.

Thank you. Grateful to be exploring the grace and challenges of the mundane and the extremes along with you.

Peace, Kent


10 free copies of Welcome Wagon’s two albums! I’ll randomly choose 10 people who do the following: Post on my Facebook page either (a) a brief story of how some type of extreme has been illuminating for you, (b) a brief story about how someone else’s extreme was illuminating, or (c) a link to a story along these lines. Or (d) put it on Twitter and include @kentannan and the hashtag #ExtremeWelcome. I’ll then compile them on my blog. Ten people will receive a beautiful, free Welcome Wagon album!

Remember You Will Die (It Helps You to be Alive)

Just before the earthquake, Père, the grandfather of the Woshdlo family I first lived with in Haiti, pulled me aside to tell me about the latest project he was starting. As usual he was barefoot, in tattered slacks and a partly shredded button-down shirt that he wears for work in his fields. He said he had been saving up to make a burial place — a small, traditional concrete tomb. The time was coming closer, he said, and he wanted to prepare for his death so the costs didn’t fall to his children. When I was there after the earthquake, [...]

Chaos and Grace in the Slums of the Earth

Note: In March I traveled to Bangkok to write about the “slums of the earth” for Christianity Today. This month, that story is their cover. Here is a small excerpt from it: For the first time in history, one of every two people lives in a city. Some 860 million of these city-dwellers reside in slums—uncertain, cramped, and frequently cruel. Most are there by necessity. A small number of Christian missionaries live in slums too. They are there by choice. About 100 of them, mostly from the United States, New Zealand, and Australia, met near Bangkok this past April. They [...]

Tribute to Danm

  Danm’s funeral is this afternoon. She was the grandmother of the family who Shelly and I lived with when we first moved to Haiti, with whom we’ve stayed very close for these past ten years. I wrote about Danm in my first book, especially in a chapter “Us. Them.” in which she’s sharing her lively, funny, scary story-telling skills with us and her grandchildren. (She’s in the middle of this photo, with her husband, one of her grandchildren, and my daughter and son.) Danm was very sick the past few months and I thought, as I prepared for this [...]

Do You Know How a Baby Comes Out?

My brother and sister-in-law just had a baby (yea!). He told my almost 8-year-old daughter and I the story on speaker phone. It was special to listen together. After hanging up, I realized that we (her parents) had neglected to tell my daughter quite how the whole birth process happens. “Do you know how a baby comes out of the mommy’s tummy?” I ask. “Uhm, belly button?” she says, confirming our parental lack of communication. “Nope.” She pauses, looks at me, raises eyebrows, and points to the area of her second guess. “Yes,” I say, and quickly say it’s hard but [...]