Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Something I need to say

This world is a dark place. Tragedies fill the 24 hour new-cycle and people die. You can be a Syrian toddler on a sinking boat in the Mediterranean without a life preserver, you can be a black man walking down the street in New York City suddenly impaled on a sword helmed by a white supremacist terrorist, you can be caught in a flash flood in Trujillo Peru and swept away in a landslide. So may tragedies I cannot begin to categorize them. No matter where you are you cannot escape the soul-dampening cruelty of this broken world.

Last Wednesday, my commute was broken by several texts from my mother and my boss as both began checking in, I had been in my own world of obliviousness to the high profile shooting of a congressman and several aides that took place less than a mile from where I live. On the year anniversary of the death of a British MP Jo Cox, a high-profile shooting targeting national law-makers carried additional weight. Last night, after spending a weekend unplugged from the internet and a wonderful Father’s Day with my parents, I opened up my social media feeds to news of the tragic murder of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year old Muslim girl, who was walking with friends between late-night prayers at the ADAMS Center Mosque. Her body was discovered in Fairfax County, where I grew up, where my parents still live, where I had just spent the whole day, oblivious.

This tragic murder pierced through my Sunday night and comes on the heels of the June 5 double homicide of young men in Maryland Shadi Adi Najjar, 17, and Artem S. Ziberov, 18, shot in a car while sitting in a cul-de-sac of a residential neighborhood.  Even more so, this news called me back to my first month working at KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. In February 2015 hatred took the lives of three beautiful, intelligent young adults full of potential: Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19.

As a Christian, I believe that this world is irrevocably broken and can only be saved by redemption through God and Jesus. As a coworker and friend of several Muslims who are fasting this month during Ramadan, their devotion and prayer to God inspires me on my own faith journey. As an American who works in D.C., I am in the process of examining my own core values, questioning our nations’ historic narrative as is the freedom and I believe obligation of every citizen of this nation.  As an attorney providing direct representation to survivors of domestic violence I see firsthand the impact of small, unspoken, unceremonious tragedies that take place privately but affect all life publicly.

The newsworthy “high-profile” cases of tragedy can put stark relief on the relative privilege those of us who are not surrounded by violence carry.  While we glaze over things that don’t directly affect us, when violence pierces through the fa├žade of daily peace, it shakes us. But more piercing are those “smaller” less public, and more intimate intrusions of cruelty, violence and evil. The ones that happen in our own backyard, in suburban neighborhoods, walking on a sidewalk from an IHOP to a mosque on a path that was supposed to be safe.

Even more disheartening is that after each act of violence, it is not long before the story is already twisted and hammered and chiseled into something personally tailored to fit personal crusades or beliefs. Already pundits are focusing in on the ethnicity of the suspect alleged to have murdered Nabra, pitting one minority against the other. After the Wednesday shooting, I watched the gun control debate  explode once again on Twitter. The toxicity and vitriol that exists beneath the surface of each of us waiting for an outrage outlet is so caustic that the moment we are shocked by a tragedy it bursts through any outlet: conversations, the news, and certainly social media.  While I certainly can get swept up in the compulsion to say something, anything, in reaction to tragedy, I’m beginning to understand that beyond a simple message of shared sadness and comfort, silence is often the best option.

For any tragedy, there needs to be space for those people involved to heal. Grief affects everyone in their own way and it is not for us in the peanut gallery to utilize someone’s hurt for publicity’s gain. Those of us not directly involved need to withhold judgment and agendas and just let people mourn and be sad and recover before twisting their grief into a convenient politically-minded narrative. Sure, we can have conversations about it especially to speak out against hate, but those talks should be free from critical commentary, hurtful hypotheticals, and moral judgements about what people might deserve. Because the truth is, only God’s mercy prevents any of us from getting what we deserve.

The month of Ramadan for many Muslims reveals how in His mercy, God provides, just as the time of Lent or Yom Kippur reveals something similar to Christians or Jews. In this broken world, each tragedy reveals how we need God so much. Those committing these atrocities are just exposing who we all are if we don't have love, if we don’t have God; the dark twisty parts of being human where we desperately need God's light. Only His love can illuminate this dark world in any meaningful way.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Musical Monday: CHRISTMAS MUSIC!

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, where every American, no matter where they are, where they're from, what they believe, or what they look like can gather together in a spirit of goodwill and gratitude and eat wonderful food with family. I love the time spent gathering together, preparing the meal, and sharing stories (some for the first time some for the five-hundredth) over a meal together.

Thanksgiving also means that you can start listening to Christmas music!! Or at least start listening to it publicly =)

Unfortunately, while Christmas classics are wonderful, it can be way too easy to overload on the same 12 songs the radio plays ad nauseum in the next month or so, but that's why we have Musical Monday! (so we're not trapped by iHeartRadio's attempt to indoctrinate our tastes to a formulaic algorithm that makes it easier for them to make money off of artists)

Luckily, there's YouTube, Spotify and tons of other ways to create your own Christmas playlist. There are also independent media outlets like KEXP or RELEVANT Magazine that put out  Christmas music you can freely stream. RELEVANT even allows you to freely download the entire two-volume album of Christmas songs!

Check it out here:


This album is full of amazing new songs and wonderful reinterpretations of holiday standards. Volume one is a little more upbeat while volume two is a bit smoother and slower to allow for introspection. I've already downloaded and played these all several times and have some new favorites for Christmas seasons to come.

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs?

Need even more Christmas music in your life? Check out this Christmas-themed Musical Monday from the ghost of Christmas Past

Monday, November 16, 2015

Musical Monday: je suis triste

So the Paris attacks shook a lot of us this past Friday. Waking up to news of the Beirut bombing just that morning, and watching the news about Paris unfold from the office and the number jumping to over 100 by the time I got home lent some moments of not quite despair but certainly some anger, uncertainty, sadness, compassion, and other complicated emotions. They're still roiling in my stomach somewhere and I haven't quite figured them out all the way yet.

Personally, I don't think I can write anything better than my immediate reaction on social media: "So many terrible things in the world. Be humble, do good. Spread love and kindness. Pray for one another. Be patient. Give joyfully of your time and self to others."

But somehow I feel like that's not enough to encompass it all.

Since music and poetry can help express feelings, and since there are some very talented songwriters out there, I discovered this song their weekend and it has stuck with me, resonating in my thoughts. The slow crescendo and build through each chorus, the lonely bellow in the background, the soft twinkling, the pauses between phrases to allow the words to sink in.... it's all so well done.

No Hell is the first single off of Cloud Cult's upcoming album, and I discovered it on KEXP's Music That Matters podcast.

Cloud Cult: No Hell

Mama said the stars are the universe's eyes
I can feel them watching over me most of the time

We grew up believing we could learn how to fly
We came from the Earth, but we belong to the sky

I saw your soul without the skin attached
You've got the guts of a coyote pack

We've been kissed, we've been cut
But we do what needs the doing

We're just rainbows dreaming we're human
Please excuse the lights shooting out of my head
I keep 'em in a cage but they come out when they see a friend
You must be a friend

You're never really going to have control of it all
So you best get cool with where your chips are gonna fall

We are the sun
And mother's milk
And cusswords
And poetry

There's no use in running unless you run like heck
The best things we've learned, we learned from the wreck

Jesus coming back as a woman this time
Handing out hugs in the clinic line

And someone tell the devil we don't need no Hell
We're all pretty good at beating up ourselves

As kids we believed that the angels talked
Everything is magic until you think it's not

It's easy to be thankful for the things you've got
It takes guts to give thanks for the things you've lost

And we grew up believing good wins over bad
So you gave away your heart but the wolves attacked
But then a bigger heart grew back

Please excuse the words coming out of my mouth
I'm a happy man but there's some things that I need to get out
I need to get out...

There's no use in running unless you run like heck
The best things we've learned, we learned from the wreck

Jesus coming back as a woman this time
Handing out hugs in the clinic line

And someone tell the devil we don't need no Hell
We're all pretty good at beating up ourselves

Monday, October 12, 2015

Musical Monday: Fall For These

St. Kilda: September
So I was supposed to blog about this last month I'm sure, but it took me awhile tog et back to blogging. The beautiful almost ethereal atmospheric guitar and other instruments hint at optimism while the lyrics are steeped in pessimism, love me a good contradiction (warning, if you play it at work, they drop one curse word a few times)

El Vy: Return to the Moon
So stoked that Matt of The National and Brent of Ramona Falls combined the best parts of what they do to form El Vy.
How stoked? Well, I used 40% of my family's data plan last month streaming the video throughout my commute to work (...oops)
Taylor Swift even recently included it in her list of "Songs to make your life more awesome" instagram post (further proof that we are essentially twins, but I's like to go n record to say I like it first!

Also, I had been waiting for this since March (I know, super hipster of me to say I liked a song before it even came out but here's proof that I knew it's be awesome):

  1. Spore & Archimedes Plutonium still get me every time. Prophet remains one of my favorite albums of the last 5 years
  2. aw, this arrives at precisely the moment I need some encouragement to keep going. Thank you so much for listening and caring.
  3. yay, so glad to encourage! Your music is amazing, thank you for sharing your talent & I look forward to any new tunes!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Musical Monday: Monday

So it's been awhile... 
But keeping with the theme, today's Musical Monday comes from an artist who's taken two years since his last song and has never given the clamoring masses what we've wanted, a full-length album, in the eight years since being a finalist in Australian Idol. I've talked about Matt Corby here before and this certainly won't be the last time, considering he'll be bringing us more songs this year (YAY!).

Musically, his sound has matured and progressed. He spent time trying to learn proficiency in all the instruments he plays on this album, which should be easy on this first song as all it is, is some snaps and stomps and his vocals. 

Well, it may be a bit more complicated than that, and what he accomplishes is beautiful but the lyrics are about losing his faith and, while he's never been an artist to shy away from deep stuff, this song makes me sad for Matt Corby the person. 

This song is filled with such beauty and melancholy intermixed with almost apathetic introspection. When it ends, it leaves you bereft and with an itchy pointer-finger over the replay icon.

Here it is, 
Matt Corby: Monday

Friday, July 17, 2015

Foto Friday: All Is Beautiful

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to catch up with a dear friend out in Delaplane, Virginia. Since she had some errands to run in the morning and it was a bit of a drive, I left early to go for a hike so I didn't spend more time in the car than out of it. She recommended Sky Meadows Park and it was absolutely perfect. With many different small trails, overnight campgrounds, a covered picnic & grill spot, and a lovely historic area, it really has something for everyone.

My hike was made even more magical as I listened to the pre-release of the first of three Gungor albums to come out this year, One Wild Life: Soul (which I'll hopefully have a review of out soon). The nature imagery and orchestral arrangements of some of the songs and the songs of great praise to the Creator, made me stop in my tracks with an enraptured smile holding my hands out to embrace the wonderful world around me quite a few times.

Here are the photos I captured that day

Friday, May 22, 2015

Foto Friday: More May Flowers

For want of more creative ideas, and a desire to at least try to slowly ease back into blogging, here are some more May flowers taken either at my Mother's garden or the Smithsonian Rose Garden. I was at the rose garden before a kickball game on the National Mall and trust me, had my sister Ms Pinky not been there to limit my time to under a minute I could've spent 20 there taking hundreds of pictures.
(All photos taken with my iPhone 5s & edited in Camera+)  

And here's a celebration video for making it this far (someday I want to listen to this while meandering along a Mediterranean beach):