Dreams that come true – part two

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Giardino Giusti, Verona, Italy

“Two gates there are for dreams,” Penelope said to Odysseus. “One made of horn and one of ivory. The dreams that pass through the carved ivory delude and bring us tales that turn to naught; those that can come through polished horn accomplish real things whenever seen.”

I planned this post to be something other than what it’s turned out to be. I wanted to look back at 2013 and connect it with years past. But I wasn’t getting anywhere. Instead, I realized the energy spent looking back could better serve the future as 2014 is about charging ahead. And if I don’t want to miss the boat, I better get on board.

To kick-off 2014, I re-opened “I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes,” a book written by Glenn Clark, published in 1937, which my grandfather gave to me. It’s a story for spiritual guidance, but unlike any I’ve read before. In fact, this is the fourth time I’m reading through it in two years. And, after struggling through the first draft of this post, I realized this fit as a follow-up to Dreams that come true – part one.

For me, 2014 is a year to act on the dreams I’ve long desired. Dreams I’ve had for years, and dreams I’ve only just discovered. But this going to require work: physically, mentally, and spiritually. And if I am to fulfill these dreams, the desires of my soul, they need to be tested to ensure they are true to my nature — a lesson from today’s reading I wanted to share. 

As Clark rightly points out, if an Oak tree were to pray for a harvest of apples, this would not align with its nature to produce a harvest of acorns. Nether would an apple tree that prayed for oranges. So I’m starting with this: are the dreams that I desire true to my nature; and if they aren’t, am I willing to let them go?

This may sound strange. I get it. But with all the books that speak about purpose, passion, what I was designed to do, if I am ever to learn this, then I have to start with my roots. My hope is that I’ll learn to identify things that are a part of my nature, and remove those that aren’t. 

That’s what I’ll be up to in 2014. My prayer is that I’ll stay honest and true as I discover these desires and work toward fulfilling my dreams as, “Blessed are they which do that hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filed.” Matthew 5:6. 

Happy New Year.

– VK

EU Anti-Trafficking Day, October 18

It’s my hope we’ll soon understand we all have a role to play in ending human trafficking.

Every year on October 18, governments, organizations, and citizens from across the EU raise their voices in honor of those who can’t speak out for themselves – victims of human trafficking. I was lucky enough to participate in events that marked this important day during the time I spent in Moldova. It’s an important day that raises an important issue – slavery still exists in our modern world.  No, it’s not something of the past. It’s here, now. And it’s everywhere.

Human trafficking has the attention and involvement of nearly every country, every major international organization, faith-based groups, non-profits and citizens. Yet it thrives. It doesn’t just get-by like an underground, back-alley nightclub. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry — $32 billion according to estimates. If human trafficking were a company, it would make Fortune’s top 100. This is a paradox beyond my comprehension. Human trafficking is a crime that involves people selling and exploiting people. People, like you and me.

I believe it’s time to re-frame the conversation around human trafficking. And we need to start by asking ourselves a few questions. Does human trafficking thrive because we’re too slow to properly address it? Do our bureaucratic processes and hyper-coordination hinder our ability to prevent, mitigate and react to its changing trends? Is it time to start thinking and acting like traffickers? Do we need to become leaner to be more effective? What will it take – more legislation or tougher laws? Sure, that’s important. But as we’ve seen here in the US, you can wage a war against an illegal substance all you want, doesn’t mean you’ll be successful.

I decided to post this on the day after the EU celebrated its anti-trafficking day as a way to continue the conversation. (We celebrate so many important days throughout the year we have to cut through our own clutter.)

Above is a video from the IOM Mission to Moldova, an organization I worked with for several years. While at the Mission, we launched back-to-back anti-trafficking campaigns on this day in 2009 and 2010. Here’s the next installment of the on-going campaign. It’s in Romanian, with subtitles in Russian. I’ll post the English translation later today.

Although I’m no longer working in this field, I remain an advocate. I’ll continue to post, write, and stay involved in this story. It’s one of the most important ills facing our global society. And just like extreme poverty, malaria, and polio, we can end it in our lifetime.

– VK

We Are Each Responsible

By accident, I picked up Krishnamurti’s Freedom From The Known. Though I’m not yet through the whole book, I liked this passage and thought it worth sharing.

“We are each one of us responsible for every war because of the aggressiveness of our own lives, because of our nationalism, our selfishness, our gods, our prejudices, our ideals, all of which divide us. And only when we realize, not intellectually but actually, as actually as we would recognize that we are hungry or in pain, that you and I are responsible for all this existing chaos, for all the misery throughout the entire world because we have contributed to it in our daily lives and are part of this monstrous society with its wars, divisions, its ugliness, brutality and greed – only then will we act.”

I can’t say I agree with everything I’ve read thus far, but he makes a few solid points like the one above.

I agree with the idea that it starts within us. Every day, in every way, our actions shape the world we live in. From the products we buy to the shows we watch, the extensions of those actions are connected. It’s a giant system, where every part eventually has a connection to its neighbor.

When we’re conscious of these interconnections – not just between people, but among business, government, everything – we can use it for positive action. That’s the area I’m looking to explore – How to leverage this to our advantage to promote peace, positivism, and prosperity.

Ideas? 

– VK

Beautiful, Lovely

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Wave Hill, New York

Our world is beautiful. From sunrises to sunsets, the delicate design of snowflakes to the condor’s path of flight, we are surrounded by beauty. Even in the midst of the concrete jungle we find beautiful spaces, such as above.

Time is beautiful. Space is beautiful. You are beautiful.

Our world is lovely. Lovely is a powerful adjective. As I once read, lovely is a result of beauty combining with love; two of the most powerful, and passionate words we know. Lovely represents perfection, in whatever moment it was achieved. There are many lovely things in this world – the way flowers bloom, the way a mother sea lion cares for her child. But it seems we’ve yet to achieve a common goal to ensure we halt the loss of our beautiful and lovely world.

Too often I neglect to notice the beauty around me. Too often my daily process distracts me from realizing the beautiful wonders right next to me. It’s important to pay attention to nature. And I’m working to include this in my daily routine.

Stop and take a look around today. Look up, look down, and look ahead. Take it in while you can, and do what you can to give back. The future of our world depends on us.

What do you find beautiful and lovely about our world? Share it with me.

– VK

Dreams that come true — part one.

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Watermelon Bay, St. John, USVI

Truth. Honesty. Just. Pure. Love. Good Report.

These could easily be the six guiding principles of any company. But, they’re actually Paul’s “whatsoever” tests:

“Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of a good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

I’m making my way through a new book, I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes. It was written by Glenn Clark, back in 1937. It was my grandfather’s book. And so far, it’s been a huge blessing. In his chapter, Dreams That Come True, several points regarding our process for dreaming and prayer hit home with me: get specific, send out your ships, and live in constant expectancy.

Get specific: When praying for the desires of your heart, Clark says, “Be as specific as you know how… If you want a house for your family, you might even draw the floor plan.” His point is that as we begin to search for the true desires of our heart, we have to ensure these desires are true to our individual nature. “An oak tree would fail of its duty if it did not pray for a harvest of acorns.” By getting specific, we clear out the clutter and are then able to match these desires with our true nature.

Send out your ships: Clark says that our dreams and prayers should meet the “test of absolute justice to your fellow man.” (I believe this should be the precedent for our actions, too.) His point  is similar to the “pay it forward” model. When we bring joy to others, or go out of our way to help someone just because we can and not because there’s a financial reward at the end, we’ve sent out ships. And this is our business, according to Clark, as it’s the part we can control. To see the ships come back, well that’s God’s business.

Live, constantly expecting: “From now on you are to believe in answered prayer.” While that may be easier said than done, it’s something I’m focusing on. “Speak the word in a spirit of faith, and the atmosphere of radiant happiness and optimism will shine through you.” And that’s what it’s about. It’s too easy to be dragged down by negativity. But, we can creatively attempt to change the way we begin each day, rather than how we end it, and start to change the bad reports into good reports. We can’t change the world overnight, but we can share our optimism and happiness within our individual environments, by constantly expecting good things.

Part two coming soon.

– VK

P.S. Thank you, St. John, for helping me to dream again.

 

Refreshed & Renewed

And not to mention, inspired. So much so that I’m in the process of writing several posts about life, inspiration, and all things positive. Spurred, of course, by the wonder of the US Virgin Islands. And, if all goes well, I’ll get the first one up later this week. (Let’s hope I can stick to the schedule.)

In the meantime, here’s a picture I took of a sunset over Cruz Bay. This place is magical, and I can’t wait to return.

A sunset over Cruz Bay, St. John.

I’m dreaming again. Stay tuned.

– VK

When times seem tough.

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“Tell me what charges you have against me.” (Job 10:2)

I came across this in my morning study in Streams in the Desert, and I wanted to share it with you. 

“O tested soul, perhaps the Lord is sending you through this trial to develop your gifts. You have some gifts that would never have been discovered if not for trials. Do you not know that your faith never appears as great in the warm summer weather as it does during a cold winter?… And hope is like the stars — unseen in the sunshine of prosperity and only discovered during a night of adversity. Afflictions are often the dark settings God uses to mount the jewels of His children’s gifts, causing them to shine even brighter.”

I hope this inspires you today. We’re living in difficult times, but more importantly, we’re living through these difficult times. And as this passage states, it’s in these difficult times that we become knowledgeable of the gifts He’s given us. Stay the course. Keep the faith. 

Blessings & peace.

– VK

Maurizio Cattelan – All

Last weekend, I was invited to the Guggenheim museum by a dear friend to catch the final showing of Maurizio Cattelan’s All. Cattelan is an Italian artist, most commonly known for his sculptures and installations, which are heavy on the satire.

And he’s good, no doubt about it. But it wasn’t so much his art, as it was the way his works were displayed — all were strung-up in a haphazardly manner from the Frank Llyod Wright-designed rotunda — that really made me appreciate the exhibition. I could go off on how this challenged the conventional exhibition, or how it disoriented the viewer and engaged him or her from all sides. But really, it just made sense. It gave the viewer the opportunity to view his collection as a whole, rather than piece-by-piece. (Here’s a great video of how it was put together.)

Nicely done, Guggenheim.

And, a few more photos:

If you ever get the chance to see one of Cattelan’s exhibitions, don’t hesitate. In fact, I’ll come with you.

– VK

Central Park is underrated

Central Park is most likely my favorite place in New York City, yet, I don’t spend enough time here. The worst part is, I have no excuse for this — I live just a few blocks away.

But I plan to spend more time there this year. (I’ll let the snow subside first though.) Perhaps I’ll even lace-up the running shoes and head out for a weekend jog. We’ll see. For now, I’ll stick to casual walks. And sing-a-longs at Strawberry Fields.

– VK

What would you do with 23 hours in Paris?

Paris, like any big city, requires at least a week to truly experience the eats and sights. But with a 23 hour layover, of which five were spent on transportation to and from CDG, we were short on time.

It was Stella’s first visit, and my second, to this extraordinary city. So, in an attempt to take in the eats and sights, here’s how we filled the 23 hour layover:

Eats:

A Baguette, a creme brulee and several crepes filled out the Paris menu.

           

Sights:

The Eiffel Tour, the Louvre (just the outside, you’d need a week to see everything inside), the Notre Dame, and a tour of the Latin Quarter.

         

We chose to walk along the Seine river from the Eiffel Tour to the Notre Dame. It was a strategic decision for two reasons: come out even on the calorie count – let’s be honest, a crepe with cheese and mushrooms followed by a crepe filled with chocolate doesn’t rank atop the food pyramid – and it’s a beautiful walk.

Twenty-three hours isn’t nearly enough time. There’s so much more to see and do in Paris. But I’m proud of what we accomplished, and I’m looking forward to the next visit.

What would you do with a 23 hour layover in Paris? Are there places you’d visit that we didn’t? I’d love to hear your suggestions and stories.

– VK

P.S. We were fortunate enough to have a two great friends living in Paris. One is an award winning documentary film producer who produced this film about my wife’s previous work fighting human trafficking, and the other is an international development expert who graciously offered us her couch for the night. It helps to know people in places you’re visiting.