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“The Life Express” – A poem from my Great Great Great Grandfather

I haven’t written on the blog much this spring/summer.  Since our Thailand trip, I’ve been busy working on very large writing project which, on top of other life changes, has stolen all of my writing bandwidth.

Recently, our family came across photocopies of my great great great grandfather’s journal.  I’ve written about H.J Ludlow before in my post on how he grafted the Okabena Apple tree.  I certainly never met HJ, but everyone always spoke of him with great reverence.  My favorite line from a memorial to him in the local paper:

“Horce J. Ludlow was a dreamer, a philosopher and a sage.  But he was, at the same time, a tireless worker, with whom to dream, philosophize and ponder upon the eternal verities was simultaneously to conceive ways and means to put dream into action and practical realities.”

HJ Ludlow was famous and cherished in the region.  He was a pioneer, a forward-looking agriculturalist, and, notably for this post, a poet.  I’ve heard he would write and often recite poetry.  With this post, I plan to start an occasional series on my blog.  As I read through HJ’s journal, I will republish is poetry or  “sage” wisdom I come across.


Here we go, the first entry in his journal…


“The Life Express”


It an interesting journey

You should care sometime to take

A journey that would be worthwhile

And you you would care to make

Just board the rapid Life Express

Get on at Babyhood

And travel over hill and dale

And through Achievement Wood


The road through Childhood swiftly runs

The station next is Youth

Beyond that step is Middle Age

Deep in the Vale of Truth

Old age is reached on schedule time

It takes away one’s breath

To speed so swiftly towards the end–

The terminus is death


The thack grows rougher towards the end

Tis then that you gaze back

And count the milestones gray that mark

The fast receding track

At last the grim conductor calls–

No need for calling twice

Far, as, we, go. Step lively, please.

Change cars for Paradise


–HJ Ludlow, January 1, 1922



Made to Work (Part 1): We ARE Made to Work Hard.

In 2012, I started thinking more about the nature of work.  Why?  Because 2012 was a lot of work.  On top of my regular tasks directing the Global Justice Program, I finished writing Go and Do, I criss crossed the U.S. speaking and promoting the book, and traveled a lot internationally–about 150,000 miles.  It was exhausting.

The Office

Where I work everyday.

The problem with working a lot is that its a black hole you can’t always escape.  The more you work, the more downtime makes you you feel paranoid that you should be working on something.  Law school, in particular, ruined me.  I recall Christmas break during my first year of law school–I struggled to relax because I felt like there was always more to do.  That feeling has never really left since. Continue Reading →


Tomorrow: Go and Do Book Release Event at Pepperdine

Go and Do was released last week and, on day 1, we sold out Amazon!  Thank you to all who purchased it!  It should also be on the shelves at Barnes & Noble this week.

As with all books, you have a launch party–and tomorrow is the launch event at Pepperdine.  If you’re in the area, you are more than welcome to join us on Tuesday, April 24, at 12:30 p.m. in the School of Law Appellate Courtroom.  (If you’re in Minnesota, stay tuned for some events we are planning in May.)

Group Photo in Village_3095484265_o

This is not just to launch a book, it’s also a celebration of 5 years of the Global Justice Program at Pepperdine Law!  We’ve come a long way in a short amount of time, so we will recognize those who piloted original programs in Uganda, Thailand, and beyond, as well as commission those leaving in the next few weeks.

Oh, and did I mention we will be serving Howdy’s — good finals break!!

Hope to see you there!

Here’s the official invitation:

Go and Do: Celebrating Five years of Global Justice at Pepperdine

Please join us to celebrate the global efforts of Pepperdine’s students and the release of Jay Milbrandt’s new book, Go and Do: Daring to Change the World One Story at a Time. 12:30pm in the Appellate Courtroom- Howdy’s for the first 50 people!

Several former and current students will share their experiences seeking justice around the world. We’ll also recognize those who have participated in past years and who will serve this summer. Jay will share some reflections from Go and Do, which features the work of Pepperdine’s Global Justice Program.  Learn more about the book at  The book is currently back ordered on Amazon, but copies will be available for purchase at the event. Jay will sign copies at 1:30pm.


My Radio Silence

I haven’t blogged much lately.  Maybe you’ve looked at the blog, maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve had few tweets or Facebook updates to my musings here.

So, why the radio silence?


The blog takes A LOT of work.  At the beginning of last year, I committed to writing 2-3 times a week.  I accomplished it and kept it up for most of the year–a solid 9 months really.  I enjoyed it.  It forced me to write and think about things.  It was also a good time to be writing.  My book, Go and Do, was finished and we were waiting for it to go to press.  I had time to write new things as we anticipated its summer launch.

One of my blogging surprises was how much work a simple post would take.  I’d think, “I’ll just pound a quick 5 minute post.”  Wrong.  A simple post was rarely short of 45-minutes, maybe an hour.  I’d write, then edit, then find photos, then re-read, then publish, then fix errors, then publicize with social media.  In addition, some piece of code or something on the blog is always working improperly or needs updating.  And there’s always a project I want to get to.

Blogging is good, but it’s a never-ending consumption of time.

Then, there are priorities.  If you’re spending an hour blogging, that’s an hour that you can’t spend writing.  And, if you’re writing, an hour is HUGE.  When I sit down to write each day on a big project, it can sometimes take an hour just to get back into the right head space again and find my bearings.

Right now, I’m in a writing period again.  I’ve got some academic articles and big projects in the cue.   It’s hard to come back to the blog.

The blog also served as a way to organize my thoughts for Go and Do.  Many of my blog posts formed major ideas and chapters in the book.  The writing projects I have at the moment don’t lend themselves well to a blog.  You’d be bored by my musings on African explorers or laws for adopting the stateless.

I hope to return to the blog, and plan to later this spring.  Keep an eye our for more down the road in March.  Some big things are happening then.  In the meantime, I’ll continue posting, but it will remain lighter.


Photo of the Week: Lightening with Lightning (Timing is Everything)

On our Brazil trip down the Amazon River this summer, Lisa was performing surgeries while I joined the boat crew for a visit to a village further up river.  On our evening return to pick up Lisa and the medical crew, our boat went directly into a massive storm.  I stood on the top of the boat and watch us plow in to the storm front.  The wind hit so hard that it blew parts of the boat off the roof and blew out the window wipers on the command deck.  We were immediately called below.

Night storm lightening flash

It was now pitch black, with rain we could not see through–even with a spot light.  Unsafe to continue traveling up the river, we had to pull directly in to shore and land the boat while waiting out the storm.  Lightning and thunder rock the night.  We could see nothing.  I got my camera and tried various combinations of exposure and shutter.  It all came down to luck.  I couldn’t get long enough flashes of light to know how the camera would react.  On top of that, the boat was rocking slightly, making it difficult to get a steady image.  One photo turned out.  It was actually quite interesting to see–the camera could see what the eye could not.  From the boat, we could not make out what the land looked like.  One surprise in the photo was how much the red boat light illuminated the shore and trees, giving the image a more eery feeling.

With lightning, timing is everything–essentially all luck.  I got lucky with this one and it made for an interesting photo.



Photo of the Week: “Waiting for His World to Change”

Waiting in Jail in Uganda

My photo of the week again from the archive on my recent trip.  I took this photo and liked it, but once the color was corrected, it’s power really came through.  This was another boy we met in the prison in northern Uganda.  They just sit and wait all day.  The look on his face captured the pain of waiting, wondering what’s next, and wishing you were back home in school.  The light is from the doorway and I particularly like the way it illuminated its outline on the back wall.  The lighting is what makes the photo.  After our work, the boy has his case dismissed and went home.  I shot the photo with my ultra-wide angle lens.


Photo of the Week: “Boys Behind Bars”

Boys behind bars.jpg

I am starting a new blog series, “Photo of the Week,” where I will share a photo from my archive and tell the backstory.  Some may be recent photos and others may be old photos that I’ve rediscovered through new post-production techniques.  Simultaneously, I’ve changed my photography workflow, so I’m going back to revisit and re-master favorites from the archive.  Photos will come from a diverse range of themes, but predominantly a thread I plan to curate, “Images of Justice.”   I’m not a ‘photographer’–those are professionals.  I’m just a lawyer using a camera to tell a story.

“Boy Behind Bars” was shot at a tiny, rural prison in Uganda.  After our juvenile justice work concluded, I went back out for a final visit and brought my camera along.  It’s often too chaotic to shoot when we have 10-15 people visiting out there.  On this trip, it was only three of us, so it was calm and I could capture routine moments of the day.  I spent some time talking to these boys in the jail–many were accused of pretty serious crimes and I was locked in the cell with them for awhile.  We had a good chat and they agreed to let me take their photo.  I wanted a photo of them through the bars with the lock and I got exactly that.  I like the colors and I like the asymmetry of their positions: looking between bars, looking around bars, hands up, hands down, shirt on, shirt off.  Yet, their current conditions are the same.  Both boys were acquitted and/or released after our work.



Village Life on the Amazon – A Photo Essay

We visited several tiny villages last week on our boat trip down Brazil’s Amazon River.  I wanted to share a short photos essay from my favorite village.

Amazon reflection

Amazon Reflection – I could not build a better movie set.  In life, I think reality rarely lives up to the mental images forming the way we hope a place looks.  When it actually, it can surprise us.  In this tiny riverside village, the scene looked like the movie set I would want to design, yet it was authentic.  It surprised me.  The sky was brilliant and wate was still.  I captured this brilliant reflection amidst some interesting boats.

Church, child, and rainbow

Abstract Church – This photo comprised a rare moment where three things I would want to photograph lined up in one shot.  At the forefront of each village, immediately after the main dock, stands a church.  Most are fairly plain, but this one had interesting abstract lines and angles.  A cool building.  Then we got a beautiful rainbow (double if you look closely).  Then, this little girl–with a pink balloon we gave her–walked right in the foreground.  I think there’s something symbolic about the church, God’s promise marked by the rainbow, and an innocent child.


The Staircase – Hills seemed rare in the Amazon.  If you saw one, you could expect a village on it–the only natural way to protect against the annual rise in the river.  This photo was the long walk, and climb, in from the dock (our boat–a floating hospital–sits at the end).


Cross Silhouette – The cross in front of the church at the forefront of the village.  I love the colors in the sky this evening.  Our boat moors at the end of the dock.

Handing out crosses

Village Kids on the Dock – I just like this angle and the colors.  It’s from the second floor of the boat looking down on the dock where dozens of kids from the village came out to see us off.  They crowded the dock climbing up on the boat and railings.


Become an Expert in One Thing

I get calls and inquiries continuously about careers in global justice.  Common questions include: “How can I get involved?” or “How do I establish myself?”  These questions ultimately transcend the topic of global justice into any field.

It’s a hard question to answer.  There are huge needs, but few jobs (if you want to get paid that is).  Typically, people are involved generally, but haven’t narrowly focused their energy yet.  They just know they want to play some kind of role.  And, on top of that, there are actually quite a few people involved in the field.


I’ll give you an example: Human trafficking.  I get so many inquiries by people who want to help abolish modern day slavery that it’s almost the presumptive default. It’s a good thing—the issue naturally breaks people’s hearts, but its also tough to plug people into it. Most just have an unfocused desire to be involved somehow.

My recommendation for those who want get involved in something is to focus deep.  Become an expert on a tiny sector of a topic.  Unless you are charting completely new water, there are already many purported experts who have gotten there before you.  Find the niche that few have uncovered.

Continue Reading →


The Story Behind the Go and Do Trailer

Wow, things have been busy here–and it’s kept me from blogging.  Lots of traveling at the moment.  Just returned from Minnesota and now I’m in Nashville presenting at the Christian Scholars Conference.  I’m here until Saturday, then return to California to re-pack and leave for Uganda.  When I’m this busy, it’s hard to pause, reflect, and write.  And, with no time to reflect, it’s hard to feel inspired.  Thankfully, I’ll have some things to write about next week from Africa!

Go and Do is getting out there  It takes a while, but we’ve been doing regular media and radio spots.  I’m beginning to get emails from readers, so it’s exciting to see it taking shape and hear that the message is resonating with people.

Continue Reading →


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