Duy Huynh’s Ethereal Art of Displacement

October 14, 2016 § Leave a comment

Inspiration can come from almost anywhere. Take, for instance, a recent trip to Kirkland’s, the home-decor store. I’m not talking about their Bible verselettes painted on pallet boards (not that there’s anything wrong with that) (it seems pretty popular right now). I’m talking more about things that get me thinking about crossing cultures, relocating, transitioning, and the like.

So on that trip to Kirkland’s, as I thumbed through the stack of framed art leaning against the wall (stampeding horses, bikes on Paris streets, a flower garden), I saw a print of an Asian lady surrounded by hummingbirds carrying keys. Interesting. I wondered who’d painted it, and I had to look no farther than the tag attached to the frame. It was Duy Huynh, a Vietnamese-born artist who came to the US in the early eighties. According to Huynh’s website,

With difficulties adapting to new surroundings and language, he took refuge in the art of comics, cartoons, and graffiti. His first art commission came in the third grade when a classmate hired him to draw the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Payment came in the form of 2 dollars and chocolate milk for the week. More importantly, Duy learned it was possible to make a connection through the use of a visual language.

His “about” page goes on to say that a common thread in his art is “geographical and cultural displacement.”

Ethereal characters maintain a serene, precarious balance, often in a surreal or dreamlike setting. With his figures, Duy explores motion along with emotion in order to portray not just the beauty of the human form, but also the triumph of the human spirit. Images that recur, such as boats, trains, suitcases, and anything with the ability of flight relate to travel, whether physical or spiritual.

Below are some of Huynh’s works that grab my imagination. I could tell you how they represent “geographical and cultural displacement” for me, but it’s better that you interpret them yourself. And don’t search online for the artist’s explanation of his images. He wants you to supply that on your own.

Maybe you’d like some of his other works more. He’s got quite a few to choose from. But if you want to buy Fair Trade Frame of Mind, don’t go to Kirkland’s. It sold out a couple weeks ago and isn’t available on their website anymore. That makes me sad, because it never even went on green-tag sale.

Of course, Huyn’s style may not be your cup of tea. Kirkland’s still should have you covered. Maybe you’re more into psychedelic cows. Apparently that’s a thing, since more than one version is available (not that there’s anything wrong with that) (inspiration can come from almost anywhere).

Fair Trade Frame of Mindfair-trade-frame-of-mind

Mindful Migrationmindful-migragion

MindfulNest Cultivationmindulnest-cultivation

Homestead and a Steedhomestead-and-a-steed

Of Wind and Water

Never Mind the Clouds

Save the Date: You’ve Got 171 Days to Get Your Happy On

October 1, 2016 § Leave a comment


Consider this your six-month reminder: March 20 is the International Day of Happiness, and author Randy Alcorn is already telling us we should all celebrate the event, even Christians who have been taught “that God is interested in our holiness, not our happiness; that joy is the opposite of happiness; that joy isn’t an emotion.”

In fact, Alcorn, who last year wrote a book titled Happiness, tells Christianity Today this week that the church shouldn’t just acknowledge Happiness Day, we should embrace it:

Wouldn’t it be great if Bible-believing evangelical Christians were the first to put that day on the calendar and declare a day of feasting? Great food, great drink, partying, games for the kids. We could invite the community, wave the flags of various nations, welcome people from all different ethnic and national backgrounds, and just invite everyone to come eat and drink and have fun.

We don’t have to give them all a tract—though of course we can explain the Bible’s good news of happiness, that God sent his Son Jesus into the world. But it isn’t just a means to that end. You could take most of the outreach plans and programs of many evangelical churches and reach more people and give more people a favorable view of the gospel by celebrating a day like this. And then, when our kids are in their college dorms and hearing about all the stuff that can supposedly make them happy (drugs, sex, changing their worldview because Christianity is so negative and intolerant), they might remember amazingly great times of celebration alongside people of every tribe, language, worldview, and faith. That would go a long way toward dissolving the unfortunate notion that church is an unhappy place.

So, what calendar should you mark the date? Well, how about the “Happiness Is . . . 2017 Daily Calendar“? By the way, I cheated and looked ahead. March 20 says,

Happiness is . . . talking music with someone who gets it.

Alcorn talks about using the International Day of Happiness for cross-cultural outreach, and here’s a video, created by This American Life, that bridges its own cultural divide. It’s about Maggie, who is afraid to tell her “conservative Christian” parents about her 17 tattoos. She has this memory from her childhood:

I remember saying, “God wants me to be happy,” and my parents said, “No, he wants you to obey him. He doesn’t care if you’re happy.” To me God is so much more than that. There’s also grace. I think that is something that gets forgotten a lot in my family.

Turns out, their cultures aren’t as far apart as Maggie thought, and the distance between was bridged with an unexpected “ton of grace.”

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!

Ah, yes, grace . . . and happiness.

(Jen Pollock Michel, “Randy Alcorn: God Wants You to Find Your Happy Place,” Christianity Today, September 27, 2016)

[photo: “Smile,” by Sofia, used under a Creative Commons license]

Little-h heroes

September 22, 2016 § Leave a comment


In a university class I’m teaching, I started the semester by having the students answer some questions about themselves: What scares you? (Spiders, heights, and death were popular—or unpopular, as it were.) What is your hometown, or where else have you lived? (See how I phrased that one, in case we had some TCKs in the group?) Who is your hero and why?

In answer to that last question, a few said Jesus—with a couple adding, “Because he’s, um, Jesus.” Some chose a famous athlete or a figure from history. But for most, their heroes aren’t well-known. They’re personal heroes: my father, because he works three jobs to support our family; my grandma, because she raised my sisters and me by herself; my teacher, because she never gave up on me.

Last year, Amy Peterson wrote a wonderful article for Christianity Today entitled “Farewell to the Missionary Hero.” In it she talks about how missionary biographies of the past have portrayed missionaries as larger-than-life “saints,” often moving from one glorious adventure to another. She contrasts that with the approach of many missionaries today who are more willing to present the hardships and mundane routines of missionary life, as well as their own shortcomings. Peterson even mentions A Life Overseas and some of the authors here as examples of this new openness and honesty.

As I reread Peterson’s article, I am even more a fan, and I’m glad that she has extended the conversation outside the missionary community. So it might surprise you to hear me say that I actually don’t think we should say “farewell to the missionary hero.” I’m not arguing against her premise. No, mine is only a semantic concern. I just want to take the word hero and look at it from a different direction. . . .

The complete post is at A Life Overseas. Finish reading it there.

[photo: “Solitude,” by G.S. Matthews, used under a Creative Commons license]

Air China Back-Back-Backtracks from Inflight Article on London

September 9, 2016 § Leave a comment


The Interwebs have been in an uproar the last few days over an article in Air China’s inflight magazine Wings of China. As reported by journalist Haze Fan for CNBC, the latest issue of the magazine touts London as a top destination but includes the following “safety” advice in a section called “Tips from Air China”:

London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people. We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when travelling.

Fan notes that the capital city is currently being led by a mayor, Sadiq Khan, who was born in London to Pakistani parents.

After Fan’s reporting, Air China North America issued the following apology via Twitter:

We at Air China Limited do not condone discrimination in any shape or form. We regret and apologize for the offensive language. . . .

But Air China was not done reversing its engines. The company also pulled the magazine from their planes and even deleted the above Tweet. Wings of China is now offline, as well.

So . . . I can’t send you to the Wings of China to read the article yourself, but I will remind you that if you’d like to see some other airline mags from around the world, go to my list of over 100 links at “Inflight Magazines: My Virtual Seat-Back Pocket Runneth Over.” Maybe you’ll be the one to scoop the next big piece of travel news.

(Haze Fan, “Air China Magazine Warns London Visitors to Avoid Ethnic Minority Areas,” CNBC, Sept. 7, 2016; Haze Fan, “Air China’s Magazine Says Media, Readers Misinterpreted London Travel Advice,” CNBC, Sept. 8, 2016)

[photo: “B-5178 | Air China | Boeing 737-86N | Grey Peony Livery | PEK,” by Byeangel, used under a Creative Commons license]

Jimmy Anderson, Native-American Artist and Preacher, and His Own Lilias Trotter Choice

September 3, 2016 § Leave a comment

When I listen to Jimmy Anderson speak in this video, I feel as if I’m listening to an uncle. Thinking through my list of uncles, several of them no longer living, I don’t come up with a match for him, but he still sounds like an uncle. Maybe it’s his calm voice and simple wisdom. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling more at home in southwest Missouri, just a few miles away from Oklahoma. There are a lot of uncle types here with his accent.

Jimmy Anderson, part of the Creek tribe, is an artist, a musician, and a missionary. I learned of him about the time I discovered Lilias Trotter. Both left behind careers in the arts to pursue life in vocational ministry. When I wrote about Trotter, I noted how little attention has been paid to her. Anderson is even less well-known. His documentary is shorter and no well-known actor plays him in it. Actually, there’s no reason to compare the two, except to note the similarities in their paths. Each has a unique story worth telling in its own right.

After graduating from high school, Anderson sang with the quartet the Osceola Four, a group that recorded a song with “The Spike Jones Orchestra” and appeared regularly on a TV variety show out of Oklahoma City. He was even more talented as a painter and studied under the Cheyenne painter, Walter Richard “Dick” West. Along with West, he became part of the Oklahoma Flat-Style movement.

But his life changed after he saw some children sitting on the curb outside a bar in Oklahoma City, waiting for their parents to come out from their drinking. After praying and fasting, he felt a calling from God and committed his life to preaching, later serving with the  Southern Baptist’s Home Mission Board.

The folks at KOSU’s Invisible Nation made this mini documentary about Anderson, as a companion to their on-air reporting about this man who passed up his potential in the art world for life as a missionary.

Anderson’s work is part of the collection at Tulsa’s Philbrook Museum of Art. In the documentary, Christina Burke, curator of Native American and non-Western Art there, summarizes Anderson’s life succinctly  in the documentary,

Well, I don’t know a lot about Jimmy Anderson and his career as an artist. I think he probably had his life path taken in another direction rather than making a career as an artist.

Art is still a part of Anderson’s life, but not an active part any more. “I know I’m where I’m supposed to be,” he says and continues,

I made the right decision, well, the Lord made the right decision for me. I’m happy . . . at peace with what I’m doing in the Lord. But I don’t use my art any more. I’ve still got visions of some paintings in my mind that I would like to do. But, boy, I’m just so busy doing my ministry, that doesn’t leave me much time to just sit down and do some painting.

In the documentary, he tells about helping a family whose mother had died from an accidental shooting. It was Christmastime, and after giving her children gifts and praying with them, he told his sons, “I’m a preacher and a missionary. But I want you to know, I enjoy what I’m doing. I’m glad I am who I am.”

(Allison Herrera, “Watch: Our Mini-Doc on Creek Preacher Jimmy Anderson,” KOSU, March 8, 2016)

Umbrellas, 2, 3, 4

August 27, 2016 § Leave a comment

“The Public Shaming of England’s First Umbrella User”

In the early 1750s, an Englishman by the name of Jonas Hanway, lately returned from a trip to France, began carrying an umbrella around the rainy streets of London.

. . . . . .

Hanway was the first man to parade an umbrella unashamed in 18th-century England, a time and place in which umbrellas were strictly taboo. In the minds of many Brits, umbrella usage was symptomatic of a weakness of character, particularly among men. Few people ever dared to be seen with such a detestable, effeminate contraption. To carry an umbrella when it rained was to incur public ridicule.

The British also regarded umbrellas as too French—inspired by the parasol, a Far Eastern contraption that for centuries kept nobles protected from the sun, the umbrella had begun to flourish in France in the early 18th century. . . . Later British umbrella users reported being called “mincing Frenchm[e]n” for carrying them in public.

Michael Walters, Atlas Obscura, July 27, 2016

Sorry: Another Difficult, but Necessary, Word

August 20, 2016 § Leave a comment


The following is adapted from “Sorry: No Ifs, Sos, or Buts” for A Life Overseas. The original was posted here.

Last month, I wrote about the difficulties of saying goodbye, something faced over again by those living overseas. Today I’d like to discuss another word that can come up during times of transition: Sorry. It, too, is hard to say, at least in the right way.

R is for Reconciliation

When it comes to transitions between countries, it can be easy to feel as if we’re drowning in all the emotions, responsibilities, and stressors. That’s why David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken, in their landmark book, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds, talk about building a “RAFT” to keep your head above water. The four parts of that raft are

  • Reconciliation
  • Affirmation
  • Farewells, and
  • Think Destination

“Reconciliation,” say the authors, “includes both the need to forgive and to be forgiven.” And this forgiveness is especially important preceding a move across time zones and oceans.

When transitions approach, those leaving—and those staying—have a small window of opportunity for a face-to-face healing of wounded relationships, a window that gets smaller as the departure gets closer. That’s why apologies become more and more necessary, even at a time when they may seem more and more difficult.

But simply deciding to say “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, because not all apologies are created equal. In fact, we live in the age of the “non-apology apology.” When you say, “I’m sorry,” do you add on any qualifiers? Do extra words reveal your true feelings?

Or do your words of remorse stand on their own? Do you say Sorry, with no ifs, sos, or buts?

Go to A Life Overseas to finish reading. . . .

(David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds, Boston: Nicholas Brealey, 2009)

[photo: “More Fun with Sorry,” by Erin Kohlenberg, used under a Creative Commons license]

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